By Douglas Buell
TULALIP — When the Tulalip Tribes opened their cannabis store last August they were already exploring the benefits the plant could offer medicinally to help heal people and combat the opioid epidemic.
The tribes announced this week that they have formed a partnership with Stanford University, awarding it a $2 million research grant to study the ability of cannabis extracts and purified THC/CBD to treat addiction and Alzheimer’s.
“In Tulalip, we’re losing seven to eight people a year to overdose,” Chairwoman Teri Gobin said at a recent community meeting. “This study and the implications for creating addiction therapies and remedies would be not only a game changer, but a life saver for our community.”
Gobin and board members Les Parks and Bonnie Juneau toured the Stanford School of Medicine’s Behavioral and Functional Neuroscience Laboratory in 2014, and Stanford professors visited Tulalip during the opening of Remedy Tulalip.
Parks, an early champion supporting the study, said he saw the potential early on for CDB to reduce reliance on pain medication and opioids, and tribal administration has been forward-thinking in supporting the research.
“Somebody has to keep the foot on the gas,” Parks said.
Gobin said the tribes are committed to developing cannabis-derived medicines with the potential to treat opioid addiction, and are proud to sponsor the cutting-edge research.
“Like so many communities across the nation, we are deploying an ever-increasing amount of resources to fight this epidemic,” Gobin said of the opioid crisis. “We decided a new approach was necessary. As sovereigns, we have a unique responsibility to our people, and providing a natural remedy to the opioid epidemic is our priority.”
She said it is nearly impossible to obtain federal funding to study the positive health benefits of cannabis because it’s still illegtal at that level, making the tribal award even more important.
One official said that seeking approval for drugs and applications such as these can take 15 years and require as many as 38 steps to get past mice trials before research can move on to human testing. Research universities working in partnership with sovereign nations such as tribes can greatly reduce federal red tape and time.
Dr. Annelise Barron, Stanford associate professor and bioengineer, said, “It’s important for people to know this research we’re doing with whole cannabis oil, meaning it came from the whole plant, the leaves and the flowers, and its effect on addiction has never been studied before.”
“This is the first time a study of this kind has been done, and it’s only possible because Tulalip invested in our ability to do the research,” Barron said.