University of B.C. to get $1 million donation to research pot's effect on HIV

VANCOUVER – A company vying for a licence to produce and sell medical marijuana has pledged $1 million to a University of British Columbia researcher studying pot’s potential for treating HIV-AIDS.

National Green Biomed Ltd. was founded by a group including former Liberal MP Herb Dhaliwal and private investment banker David Sidoo, who is also a member of the UBC Board of Governors.

“Because cannabis has been seen primarily as a recreational drug, its medicinal implications have been much overlooked in formal research circles,” Dhaliwal said Monday in a statement.

University of B.C. assistant professor of medicine M.J. Milloy said National Green has so far donated $200,000 toward his work, with a promise to contribute the rest of the money within five years.

The infectious disease epidemiologist was the lead investigator of an ongoing observational study that looked at the cases of 88 people infected with HIV and living in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

Milloy said their medical records suggested that people who smoked the most marijuana had significantly less of the virus in their blood compared to those who smoked less pot or none at all.

Milloy said the donation may be used to conduct a clinical trial to draw more firm conclusions than those available through the limited study published in Drug and Alcohol Review in March.

A study on monkeys at Louisiana State University showed similar results, Milloy said.

“That’s what I think is the exciting thing about science, that we’re beginning to see the same thing.”

Dr. Julio Montaner, head of the UBC Division of AIDS and director of the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, said some patients have reported benefiting from using cannabis.