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Recent Research Bolsters the Case That Cannabis Benefits Seniors

Marijuana prohibition has long barred research on the plant's many benefits but that's changing.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

There has never been a better medical match than senior citizens and cannabis. Everyone in the pot industry knows this. That’s what got me started in this industry a decade ago -- helping my fiance’s grandmother manage her way through chemotherapy with THC. My focus today, as a result, is naturally geared toward helping educate and guide seniors seeking cannabis help and advice. However, because we often lack the kind of credible research afforded to other industries, my hands have always been tied in terms of backing my suggestions with documented science.

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Happily, the times they are a changin’. Credible research is popping up all over the place. Harvard University and MIT just announced plans to share a $9 million donation for the study of cannabis’ health effects. This type of research is changing how entrepreneur’s address their customer’s needs.

If a senior customer is interested in learning more about the success rate of other seniors dropping their opioids and other harsh medications for cannabis, I can now refer them to the DENT study. It was conducted by researchers at DENT Neurologic Institute, and claims that, “70 percent of those studied reported a significant increase in their quality of life after being prescribed medical marijuana, and more than 30 percent were able to get off of their opioid painkillers.”

Just three months ago I had zero hard evidence to offer that customer.

If a different senior customer is curious about THC’s role versus CBD’s in providing therapeutic relief, I can now refer them to a study recently published by researchers at the University of New Mexico. It claims that THC plays a much bigger role producing therapeutic effects in cannabis than was previously thought, and that ultimately the two work best when applied together.

Related: Move Aside, CBD: New Data Finds THC Is the Real Medicine in Medical Marijuana

Prior to this study, no one really wanted to hear about the medical power of THC, at least not lately. CBD has been all the rage in the media, but the reality is, and always has been that the two components work best together. I can now prove that statement with very credible research.

And if anyone wants to go deep on the most recent, and in my opinion most spellbinding research on the effects of cannabis on Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, I point them towards the research being conducted by Dr. Ethan Russo, and specifically this interview, in which he states the following:

“Utilization of cannabis preparations with the right mixtures of cannabinoids and terpenoids show great promise to produce better results. While these may be simply palliative in reducing drug and care burdens, there is also the possibility of making a real difference in slowing or abrogating the pathological processes in these two disorders.”

Perhaps most importantly for the cannabis industry and its ability to communicate cannabis’ power to aid those suffering from these debilitating diseases, Dr. Russo states that, “while the current laboratory experiments have been extremely important in establishing a foundation for cannabis-based medicines in [the] treatment of AD and PD, it is definitely time to move the effort into the clinical arena.”

If, and/or when that happens, the game for each of these debilitating diseases and its sufferers changes forever, because no drug has ever had any positive effect on either disease. Until then, it is nice to see the cannabis industry get some legitimate attention from those in the scientific community. The research they are conducting with cannabis and hemp provides the type of credibility previously only offered to other, legitimate industries.

Related: Early Research Is Hopeful About CBD and Depression

From the highest level, it may represent a tidal industry shift as these studies are turning up research I can use to inform my clients (eg., Dr. Russo’s research on terpenes and their effect on cannabis), and unearthing new and previously unknown benefits of each plant. This is simply my opinion, but credible, empirical research studies and their resulting data may help stem the cannabis industry’s coming consolidation. The more people know about the effect of what they are putting in their bodies, the more they will seek solutions that map precisely to their needs, which at times are niche. Some will also seek out premium quality sources. Big brands will have trouble catering to those customers.