Two new studies from the University of New Mexico show cannabis is effective in treating a host of different ailments including insomnia and depression, with a minimal amount of negative side effects.

Though these findings may confirm some commonly held beliefs about medical marijuana, the studies may potentially have a big impact. Medical cannabis in the U.S. has been extremely limited by federal laws for a long time, making studies in a clinical setting near impossible.

But researchers at UNM have found an interesting work around. Instead of putting subjects in a laboratory or clinic setting, they instead use data from a self-reporting app called Releaf.

The app allows users to record their cannabis use, medical symptoms, and side effects. Since its release in 2016, the app has so far recorded nearly 100,000 user sessions.

According to Science Daily, which reported on the two studies, the app has some advantages over more traditional research methods. Because users report their experience immediately after experiencing them, it avoids “the limitations of retrospective survey collection methods (e.g., memory bias, social desirability effects) making it an ideal research tool for measuring real-world cannabis use.”

“Observational studies are more appropriate than experimental research designs for measuring how patients choose to consume cannabis and the effects of those choices,” said Jacob Miguel Vigil, one of the studies’ authors and a UNM Department of Psychology Associate Professor.

“By collecting massive amounts of patient-entered information on actual cannabis used under real-life circumstances we are able to measure why patients consume cannabis, the types of products that patients use, and the immediate and longer-term effects of such use. In other words, many of the important and practical research questions that randomized controlled trials fail to address.”

Vigil conducted the studies along with UNM Department of Economics Assistant Professor Sarah See Stith. The studies were “Patient-Reported Symptom Relief Following Medical Cannabis Consumption,” published in the journal Frontiers, and  “Effectiveness of Raw, Natural Medical Cannabis Flower for Treating Insomnia under Naturalistic Conditions,” published in the journal Pharmacology and Medicines.

“If the results found in our studies can be extrapolated to the general population, cannabis could systematically replace multi-billion dollar medication industries around the world. It is likely already beginning to do so,” Vigil said.

Photo via Flickr user WeedPornDaily