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Earlier this month, the California Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC) announced the recipients of public university grant funding that will allow universities across the state to research the legal cannabis system and its impacts, and researchers are eager to launch their wide-ranging studies.

More than 100 universities applied for grants of up to $2 million to fund research proposals that had to fall within one of several specified categories, including public health, criminal justice and public safety, and economic and environmental impacts of the legal cannabis industry.

The BCC ultimately awarded nearly $30 million in funding to UC San Francisco, UC Santa Barbara, CSU Dominguez Hills, UC Berkeley, UC Los Angeles, UC Irvine, UC San Diego, UC Davis and CSU Humboldt for their specified research proposals.

UCLA received seven grants totaling $6.4 million to fund studies that will be conducted through the Semel Institute/Department of Psychiatry, Integrative Substance Abuse Programs (ISAP), Center for Health Services and Society, Department of Family Medicine, Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care, Division of Infectious Disease, Luskin School of Public Policy and the UCLA Labor Center.

Funded studies will focus on the impact of Prop. 64 on maladaptive cannabis use and treatment for cannabis use disorder, as well as the toxicity of inhaled and second-hand cannabis smoke, the neurobiological and behavioral impact of cannabis marketing, employment conditions in California’s cannabis industry, a demographic analysis of the licensed cannabis industry and cannabis consumers, and an assessment of the feasibility and consequences of implementing a cannabis potency tax.

“The funded grants exemplify the breadth of cannabis research at UCLA,” Ziva Cooper, Ph.D and director of the UCLA Cannabis Research Initiative, told Cannabis Business Times and Cannabis Dispensary in an emailed statement.

UC Davis received five grants totaling $3.1 million to fund studies on the impact of cannabis use in early psychosis, an assessment of the demographics of the licensed cannabis industry, the economic impacts of the industry on the private and public sectors in California, the environmental impacts of licensed and unlicensed cannabis cultivation in the state, and a study on California’s cannabis workers.

“We have a Cannabis and Hemp Research Center at UC Davis that fosters scientific research, as well as a dissemination of knowledge related to the many scientific disciplines associated with cannabis and hemp, and that includes agricultural science, environmental science, pharmacology and clinical medicine,” Cam Carter, co-director of the research center, told CBT and CD, adding that the grant funding will support research across all of these areas. “The area that our research is focused on is the effects of cannabis use on the brain, brain function and brain health in young people with serious mental illness. We want to understand the complexities, particularly adverse effects and clinical outcomes, as well as potential therapeutic effects associated with cannabis use in high-risk, young populations.”

One group of researchers will focus specifically on economic issues, Carter said, particularly economic development and equity in California’s legal cannabis industry. Much of that research will rely on information from public records, as well as interviews with various participants in the industry and an analysis of policy related to economic development and equity.

Other studies will focus on the occupational health for workers who participate in California’s legal cannabis industry, as well as health-related research involving cannabis consumers who are receiving mental care, Carter added.

“That research will involve clinical interviews and evaluations, metabolic and inflammatory markers, and brain imaging studies, looking at the function and structure of the brain in those young people,” he said.

The goal of the research funding program, which is supported by state tax dollars, is to provide a better understanding of the impact of cannabis legalization on California’s economy, environment and public health, Carter said. He expects the results of UC Davis’ research to be published in scientific journals and white papers, and hopes that the research will have many positive outcomes.

“We would like to see an industry that is contributing positively to the economy, doing that in a way that’s equitable, that’s not in any way harmful to the health of people who are actually participating in the industry,” Carter said. “And we’d definitely like to have a better understanding on the impact of the industry and cannabis use in general on high-risk populations, such as those who are young, whose brains are still developing, or who have mental health problems.”

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