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The federal government has been reducing funding for research on marijuana’s potential medical benefits, Bloomberg reports. Medical research funding for marijuana reached a peak of $131 million in 2007; it dropped to $91 million last year.

Studies have suggested marijuana may help stimulate appetite in chemotherapy and AIDS patients, the article notes. Research also has suggested it may help improve muscle spasms in people with multiple sclerosis, reduce nerve pain in people with HIV-related nerve damage, and may reduce anxiety and depression. However, the current medical literature contains contradictory findings on marijuana, leaving doctors who prescribe the drug in states where medical marijuana is legal with little guidance.

“What’s happening in the states is not related to science at all,” said Beau Kilmer, Co-Director of RAND Corp.’s Drug Policy Research Center. “It’s difficult to get good information.”

Colorado and Washington state have legalized the recreational use of marijuana, while medical marijuana is legal in 18 states, the article notes.

Many doctors and policymakers making decisions about marijuana rely on a 1999 report from the Institute of Medicine, which concluded the drug appeared to have benefits, but the drug’s role was unclear. “We don’t know that much more than what’s in that report,” said Donald Vereen, a former adviser to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

The American Medical Association says fewer than 20 randomized controlled clinical trials, involving about 300 patients, have been conducted on smoked marijuana in the past 35 years. NIDA controls the marijuana used in approved studies, but it concentrates on research into the risks of marijuana, not its potential medical benefits.

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