BOULDER — Researchers with the University of Colorado’s CUChange Cannabis Research team are partnering with a pair of local cannabis companies to study the long-term impacts of marijuana use.
Native Roots Cannabis Co., which operates dispensaries throughout the region, including in Boulder and Longmont, will supply participants with marijuana flower, and Wana Brands, a trade name used by Boulder-based Mountain High Products LLC, will supply edibles.
“Our companies are really like-minded in that we care about the community,” Native Roots director of public affairs Shannon Fender told BizWest. “… We’ve followed what CU has done in this [cannabis research space] space for years … and it’s always been an area of interest for us.”
CU’s study, conducted under the supervision of the school’s Center for Health, Neuroscience, Genes and Environment, is expected to run for at least two years and will examine the “psychological, neurocognitive, physiological, genetic, and epigenetic factors that are linked with health and risk behavior” of cannabis users, according to a joint news release.
Participants, who began being recruited in February, will consume cannabis at home and receive an at-home visit from the CUChange Mobile Pharmacology Laboratory, a van modified with laboratory testing equipment.
Researchers will take blood samples and interview participants on subjects related to cognition and behavior.
“In order to obtain the broadest and most comprehensive set of data, we include a wide range of types of state market cannabis products in this extensive study,” CUChange co-director L. Cinnamon Bidwell said in a prepared statement. “We are extremely grateful that organizations like Native Roots and Wana Brands stepped in to help when they saw this need. As most everyone knows, cannabis research is severely limited due to cannabis’ federal status and is still decades behind where it should be. With more states moving toward legalization, it is even more important that we learn everything we can about how cannabis, as it is sold in legal markets, impacts the human body.”
Federal marijuana prohibition puts a “significant burden” on companies and institutions in states where marijuana is legal to lead the way in studying the effects of the marijuana plant on human bodies and minds.
“The strength and power of a large research institution like CU backing these studies changes the nature of the type of research that can be done on cannabis,” Wana chief marketing officer Joe Hodas said. “… Everyone agrees that more research is better, but we’ve had our hands tied trying to do it. Now we don’t (have our hands tied.)”
While they tout anecdotal evidence suggesting the benefits of cannabis use for the treatment of certain maladies, representatives with Native Roots and Wana acknowledge that not all conclusions drawn by researchers are likely to be positive for the industry.
“Data is data — good or bad,” Hodas said. “We’re just looking for information.”
Negative results are “something that’s definitely a risk, and something that we’ve talked about internally with our companies,” Fender said. “We want our patients and adult consumers to be educated on the products they’re consuming and to be able to make the best decisions for their health and wellbeing.”
While it is completely apolitical, studies such as CU’s are likely to help destigmatize the responsible use of cannabis in parts of the country where the product remains illegal, the industry representatives said.
“The group of folks who are anti-cannabis is getting smaller and smaller, and we haven’t seen the massive negative impacts that some people talked about” prior to Colorado’s legalization in 2014, Fender said. “I’m not sure what will happen in terms of this study changing the national narrative … but I think this just makes for a better informed industry that can make better products.”
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