6 Countries in the World That Lead in Medical Cannabis Research

Soft Secrets
06 Mar 2021

Where in the world has cannabis research advanced the most? From Israel to Spain, the US is not on the list.


It’s not a secret that the stigma is still strong for the use of marijuana, both medical and recreational. To this end, science tries to resolve the issue and give a broader picture of this medicine, helped by meticulous research. Below is a quick overview of some of the world's top countries that are truly hopefully devoted to medical cannabis research.

When it comes to medical cannabis research, unfortunately, the U.S does not share the same science enthusiasm such as other countries overseas. Certainly, there are U.S. scientists who contribute with their knowledge and talent, nevertheless, everything is made more difficult with the looming legal status issue and the subsequent restrictive fundings.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration continues to view cannabis as a Schedule I narcotic, making marijuana more tightly controlled than other drugs. Researchers must obtain approval from the DEA, Food and Drug Administration, and the National Institute of Drug Abuse.

In many instances, this makes the research very limited and insufficient, and in the end, it's patients, medical workers, and policymakers who lose.

Which Countries Are World Leaders in Medical Cannabis Research?

When we fail to demystify cannabis goods and wrongs at home, it's other countries abroad that take the effort and benefit from advanced research. Let’s check who is on this list:

CBD isolate, a pure form of CBD
Photo showing CBD isolate, a crystalline solid or powder that contains 99% pure CBD. A significant portion of medical cannabis research focuses on CBD and its numerous medical effects.

1. The Czech Republic

It's a little-known fact that Czechs have one of the best cannabis research institutions in Europe and beyond. 

The International Cannabis and Cannabinoids Institute (ICCI) research center was launched a few years back thanks to the Members of Americans for Safe Access (ASA) and Dioscorides Global Holdings, and Svatopluk Nemecek, former Czech Minister of Health who held office between 2014 and 2016.

ICCI collaborates with various cannabis experts and a network of more than 40 universities, hi-tech companies, and institutions from all around the globe, and has become a truly international education hub in Central Europe. Some of its research efforts have focused on exploring the effectiveness of cannabis compounds on human organisms, how the different compounds impact specific syndromes as well as systematic health disorders. The center has also taken on extensive analysis of European CBD oils to meet the needs of the hot-boiling cannabis industry.

Pretty impressive for a country with a world-famous beer!

2. Uruguay

You can always go to Uruguay and just get high. Or, you can go to Uruguay and try to do something smarter, like research cannabis. It's possible to do so without going through wild bureaucratic adventures.

Uruguay was the first country in the world to take the bold step of legalizing and regulating the sale and use of marijuana. Perhaps this South American country does not have as much wealth and resources as other developed countries to conduct in-depth cannabis research. However, due to its friendly policy on cannabis, it's one of the world's best-positioned countries to attract researchers who are willing to take the country's medical pot data to the next level.

3. Canada

Canadians are known for their progressive ecological spirit and symbiosis with nature. In 2018, Canada became the second country only to fully legalize cannabis, which also made the country the largest economy in that respect (Mexico is closely watching to steal this prospect in the meantime).

Current Canadian Primer Minister Justin Trudeau backed the legalization of cannabis when he run his electoral campaign in 2015. At the same time, the Canadian scientific community also rallied for cannabis. Over 1,800 scientists and researchers signed a letter that requested Trudeau and the government for more extensive engagement in the research of cannabis.

As a result, the same year the Canadian government introduced recreational legalization, it decided to also slot $1.4 million toward dozens of science projects that will analyze the effects of legalizing cannabis nationwide. While some projects were launched to examine how cannabis use changes post-legalization, other projects specifically focus on exploring the possible influence of cannabis use in different demographic groups, for example, teenagers. Pregnant women and indigenous communities are also included in Canadian cannabis research.

CBD cannabis pills
Medical research is necessary to devise new medical cannabis products, such as CBD cannabis pills shown on the photo.

4. Spain

Spain still prohibits the use of THC in medical cannabis products. However, the country on the Iberian peninsula has been carrying out research initiatives since the 1990s, initially with its research groups at Madrid’s Complutense University. It's when the country discovered that THC could influence programmed cell death in brain tumors without negatively impacting surrounding cells. 

Injecting synthetic THC on rats, Spanish scientists sought ways if they can eradicate brain tumors in rodents. Initial results showed the method worked as one-third of the lab rats had their lives prolonged for more than a month. When the same research was repeated in 2002, the team led by Dr. Manuel Guzman announced THC could help target incurable brain tumors in rats. 

Spaniards have also conducted research to comprehend the overall benefits of the cannabis plant, understand the plant's genetic components, the variability of species found in the wilderness, and production improvement both in original terroirs or when hybridized. 

At present, the Spanish Observatory on Medical Cannabis (OECM) is one of the country's most prestigious institutions taking on cannabis research.

5. The Netherlands

Unsurprisingly, the Netherlands, a country considered the ultimate pilgrimage destination for cannabis tourists, is a foreknown leader in medical cannabis research. Holding the silver medal on our list, the Dutch people can take pride in their nationally sponsored medical marijuana program. It's one of the three countries globally, alongside Canada and Israel who have such a program.

Dutch supported research has produced multiple breakthrough findings in recent years. It has explored whether CBD can influence driving. It has investigated whether the soft drug can create fake memories and if cannabis users should be considered as vulnerable witnesses during crime investigations. This, of course, is just a fraction of where Dutch research is headed.

6. Israel

The “promised land” seems to be the right term to describe the global leader in cannabis research - Israel. "Work hard and party hard” stands for the country where knowledge of cannabis is being boosted for more than five decades now. THC and the endocannabinoid system were discovered in Israel by world-renowned Israeli marijuana pioneer Raphael Mechoulam in the 1960s. The rest is history. 

Israelis can nowadays brag about the world's largest number of clinical trials testing the benefits of marijuana. They can also brag about being among the first in the world to legalize medical weed and its exports to other countries. And they can also brag about their colossal research facilities that usually come with vast grow rooms where the buds have no limits. Basically, the country is really at another level when it comes to medical cannabis research.

The expanding legalization of cannabis worldwide means that more and more countries are seriously taking on the task to conduct in-depth medical cannabis research. Three other countries worth mentioning are Australia, New Zealand, and Germany, which are headed in the right direction and catching up with research and legislation. Hopefully, the U.S. joins this fine company sooner rather than later.

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