On June 8th an HIV researcher at the University of British Columbia received a $1 million donation from National Green Biomed, a major Canadian medical marijuana producer.

National Green Biomed is attempting to obtain a license from Health Canada to produce and sell medical marijuana legally. The size of the donation is a reminder how urgent this kind of research is needed.

National Green Biomed hopes to become the next licensed marijuana producer in Canada. Currently there are 19 federally-funded producers licensed by the Health Canada.

The company has donated $200,000 to UBC so far, and they say they plan on donating more.

The money will fund research spearheaded by assistant professor of medicine M-J Milloy. Kelly Sinoski of the Vancouver Sun said “Milloy, an infectious disease epidemiologist with the UBC Division of AIDS and the British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, conducted a study that found HIV positive people who used marijuana at least daily had less than half the concentration of the HIV virus in their blood compared to people who rarely or never consumed cannabis.”

The study was published in the March edition of the Drug and Alcohol Review. The research will help identify exactly how cannabis slows the replication and infection of HIV- not just the symptoms.

Dr. Julio Montaner is the head of the UBC Division of AIDS and director of the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS.

“We have long heard from our patients that they perceive that they obtain health benefits from cannabis use,” said Dr. Julio Montaner. “This contribution will allow us to begin to rigorously assess whether these benefits are truly real.” UBC’s president Arvind Gupta is in favor of the university’s research and a quest for answers in “unconventional places.”

Claudette Cardinal is one of the HIV+ Canadians that will be directly affected . Cardinal’s thoughts were included in the June 8th announcement.

“I have faith in the therapeutic properties of cannabis, to keep me on a healthy path- But I know one person’s faith alone isn’t enough when it comes to new medical treatments. We need scientific research to find out more about the effects of cannabis – both its benefits and its risks – as we do with other drugs. That knowledge would help doctors like Dr. Montaner and patients like me make more informed decisions, instead of relying on rumours and impressions… …This gift, and the knowledge we will gain from it, has the potential to improve so many lives, by possibly helping people like me tolerate life-saving medication, and by possibly revealing other benefits for our health. Who knows what we might find? But if we don’t try, we will never know.”

I am one of the millions of HIV+ patients that rely on medical marijuana. I’ve consistently stayed undetectable and I believe medical marijuana has helped. However, the donation from  National Green Biomed is a reminder that our work is nowhere near complete.