#48 Prime Time: Cannabis Conferences Abound - Mary's Medicinals

#48 Prime Time: Cannabis Conferences Abound

By: Alice O'Leary Randall |

Not too long ago there were very few cannabis conferences, especially cannabis conferences with a focus on science. The venerable ICRS (International Cannabinoid Research Society) can boast three decades of scientific meetings. The eponymous  Patients Out of Time has held biennial (now annual) meetings since 2000 that offer a blend of scientific research and patient activism. For many years, aside from a few legal conferences for defense lawyers, these were the only cannabis meetings around.

Today, however, scientific cannabis meetings appear to be springing up in every corner of the globe, many sponsored by a new addition to the cannabis industry—the conference provider. CannaTech is perhaps the best known of these auxiliary providers. But an up-and-comer is BioEvents. I first became aware of them in 2018 when they sponsored Controversies on Cannabis-Based Medicines in Vienna. A similar meeting was held in Barcelona in 2019 and was covered extensively in this blog (blogs #38-44). 

These conferences must have gone well because BioEvents sponsored a second cannabis conference in 2019 in London and are planning a U.S. meeting in January 2020 (The American Conference on Controversies on Cannabis-Based Medicines in Orlando, January 23-24, 2020). 

The London conference was held October 24-25 and was entitled “The International Congress on Clinical Trials in Cannabis.” The chair of the meeting was Dr. David Meiri of Israel, a brilliant biologist who is conducting some fascinating research on cannabis and cancer and the keynote address was from the grandfather of cannabis, Dr. Raphael Mechoulam. More on this meeting in upcoming blogs.

Just one week later, another venerable association, the International Association for Cannabinoid Medicines (IACM), held its biennial conference in Berlin. IACM was founded in 2000 and has largely been the work of one man, Dr. Franjo Grotenhermen. IACM conducts a conference every two years but there are big changes coming to the group. It was announced that beginning in 2021 the conference will become annual and the group is dramatically overhauling its membership categories, hoping to attract sponsors who will ante up some big Euros or dollars to support the group. When asked by an audience member what the companies will get for this sponsorship Grotenhermen spoke eloquently about the need for independence and the importance of having good science that is not beholding to any company or government. “What’s important … is our independence, to be good scientists, good doctors. When we started the IACM I talked with Raphael Mechoulam [and asked] ‘what’s the issue of the IACM?’ and we agreed it was the patient.”

Dear friends and readers, I have been in this issue for more than four decades, trying to help patients legally obtain this wondrous plant. I have seen the cannabis issue become the cannabis industry, with projections of growth discussed in the millions and billions of dollars. In all of the cacophony of the “Green Rush” and endless media coverage, it often seems the patient is regarded as little more than a consumer. With groups like IACM and Patients Out of Time, however, there is hope that the patient will not be lost and will benefit from this remarkable research that is revealing so much.❖

Up Next: Coverage of The International Congress on Clinical Trials in Cannabis. And in coming posts coverage of the IACM meeting.