Skip to main content

NIH-Supported Research on Cannabis, Cannabinoids, and Related Compounds

NIH-supported research on cannabis, cannabinoids, and related compounds


The National Institutes of Health (NIH) supports a broad portfolio of research on cannabis and cannabis constituents and related compounds, as well as the endocannabinoid system. Specific topics of interest vary among Institutes, Centers, and Offices, but overall the research portfolio includes studies investigating the whole or parts of the Cannabis sativa plant, cannabis extracts or enriched extracts, cannabinoid compounds extracted and derived from cannabis extracts, non-cannabinoid constituents of cannabis, synthetic cannabinoids, and the components of the endocannabinoid system (the signaling pathways in the body activated by cannabinoids).

There is considerable interest in the possible therapeutic uses of cannabis and its constituent compounds. In 2015, NIH developed three reporting categories to describe and account for the research efforts underway to examine the chemical, physiological, and therapeutic properties of cannabinoids and the physiological systems they affect.

View examples of NIH research grants in each of the categories below.

  • Cannabinoid Research – This category reports the total NIH investment in all cannabinoid research including basic research, animal and human preclinical studies, and clinical research. Studies examine cannabis use disorder as well as the societal and/or health impacts of changing cannabis laws and policies; all classes of cannabinoids (purified, synthetic, endocannabinoids, or phytocannabinoids); compounds that modify the activity of consumed cannabis (e.g., cannabinoid receptor allosteric modulators); as well as the physiological systems affected by cannabis (e.g., endocannabinoid system) and modulators thereof (e.g., fatty acid amide hydrolase [FAAH] inhibitors). 
  • Cannabidiol Research – This subset of the Cannabinoid Research category (above) reports all NIH projects examining basic, preclinical, and therapeutic properties of cannabidiol (CBD).
  • Therapeutic Cannabinoid Research – This subset of the Cannabinoid Research category (above) reports all NIH projects examining the therapeutic properties of all classes of cannabinoids (endocannabinoids, phytocannabinoids, and synthetic).

These categories are publicly accessible on the NIH categorical spending website (NIH RePORTER) and will be updated annually.