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California Cannabis Regulator Gives $20 Million to Research

By Leo Bear-McGuinness

Published: Apr 27, 2023   
Person wearing mask holds test tube with cannabis bud inside.

Image credit: iStock

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California’s Department of Cannabis Control (DCC) has funded 16 new cannabis research projects with a total of $19,942,918.

“It is the Department’s aspiration that these studies will advance the body of scientific research, further our understanding of cannabis, and aid to the continued development and refinement of the legal framework,” Rasha Salama, chief deputy director of the DCC, said in a statement published on April 25.

“These studies will provide valuable insights on topics of interest to California’s consumers, businesses, and policy makers and the Department looks forward to sharing them once they are completed.”

Cannabis research X 16

Eight of the studies, conducted across five different universities, will investigate aspects of cannabis potency. Their details are as follows:

  • University of California, Irvine: A Translational Study on the Short- and Long-term Effects of High-dose THC.
    Summary: This research study will collect detailed data to determine the acute effects of high-dose THC on mood, cognition, and abuse potential. ($2,000,000)
  • University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA): An Evaluation of Synthetic and Semi-Synthetic Cannabinoids. 
    Summary: With the fast-emerging challenges of novel cannabinoids, this research will define and describe intoxication associated with the synthetic and semi-synthetic versions of what is found in cannabis plants. ($2,000,000)
  • UCLA –The Adverse Effects of Inhaled Cannabis Concentrates (dabs) Compared to Smoked Cannabis: A controlled human-drug administration study of cannabis potency. 
    Summary: This study will evaluate the intoxicating effect, and clinically significant thresholds for defining high and low concentrations of THC and identify and compare differences between inhaled concentrates and smoked cannabis. ($1,832,997)
  • UCLA: Interactions Between delta-9-THC and CBD: A Controlled Human Drug-administration Study Probing a Harm Reduction Strategy.  Summary: This study will provide direct information evaluating interactions between various THC and CBD ratios, how these ratios affect intoxication and health effects, and whether certain ratios may attenuate adverse effects. ($1,662,744) 
  • University of California, San Francisco: The Impacts of the Potency of Cannabis Concentrates and THC Metabolism on Cognitive Impairment in Young Adults. 
    Summary: This project will study the impact of THC potency in cannabis concentrates and genetic predisposition to poor THC metabolism on cognitive impairment in young adults. ($904,052)
  • University of California, Davis –Chemistry, Toxicology, and Brain Disposition of Cannabinoids, Novel Cannabinoids, and Mixtures in Electronic Cigarettes.
    Summary: This project aims to thoroughly describe the chemistry, in vitro toxicology, and interactions at the blood-brain barrier of the vaped aerosols from Δ9-THC, Δ8-THC, Δ10-THC, CBD, THC-O-acetate, CBD-O-acetate, and CBD: THC mixtures produced from a representative vaping device. ($856,881) 
  • University of California, San Diego: Longitudinal outcomes related to cannabis potency and toxicological analysis and cognitive, brain, and psychiatric functioning in young adult cannabis users. 
    Summary: This study will examine cannabinoid concentrations in the body as predictors of cognitive, psychiatric, and neural outcomes in young adults. Because this is a longitudinal study, the project term will be four years. ($676,735)
  • UC San Diego –Longitudinal Associations of Cannabis Use and Mental Health Among Adolescents. 
    Summary: This research will build upon existing longitudinal data from the Adolescent Brain and Cognitive Development Study to study the impact of cannabis use on as mental and physical health measures of adolescents. ($240,417)

Two of the studies will investigate the medical use of cannabis:

  • UCLA: Cannabis use for medicinal purposes among clinical populations in California: Population estimates of prevalence, frequency, quantity, and reasons for use. 
    Summary: This project will focus on the epidemiology of medicinal cannabis use among clinical populations in California to describe the prevalence and patterns of use. ($1,849,962)
  • UCLA: The State of Medical Cannabis in California. 
    Summary: This project will collect and analyze data regarding the use of medicinal cannabis, including the diagnoses associated with medicinal cannabis use, where patients access cannabis, the preferred product formulations and routes of administration, and the cannabinoid content of products used by the medicinal cannabis patient population. ($437,465)

Three other studies will research the health of the cannabis sector in California and the effect of monopolies:

  • UCLA: Assessing the Health of California’s Cannabis Industry. 
    Summary: This project will provide a rigorous and objective assessment of California’s cannabis market to meet the statutory requirements of Revenue and Taxation Code §34020.1 and provide recommendations on how to define and create measure for future assessments. ($1,679,972)
  • Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo: Local Regulations, Market Power, and the Evolution of the California Cannabis Industry. 
    Summary: This study will examine the effects that local regulation throughout California has had on market concentration and prices, and how differences in local regulation can impact market power, unfair competitive practices, and the growth of the California cannabis market. ($444,643)
  • UC Berkeley: Understanding Investment, Operating Pressures, and Anti-Competitive Characteristics in the Cannabis Industry.  Summary: This project will examine whether and to what degree monopolistic and anti-competitive tendencies are emerging in the cannabis industry and the overall patterns of investment and ownership that threaten the competitive landscape of the California cannabis economy. ($855,434)

One other, first-of-its kind study will research the genetic makeup of California’s legacy cannabis crops and how that affects the current industry:

  • Cal Poly, Humboldt: Legacy Cannabis Genetics: People and Their Plants, a Community-Driven Study. 
    Summary: This project is a multi-disciplinary, community-based participatory research project that will identify, document, and help to preserve the history, value, and diversity of California’s rural legacy cannabis genetics and the communities that steward them. ($2,699,178)

The two remaining research projects concern the following:

  • UC Berkeley: Licensed and Unlicensed Cultivation Across Banned and Permitted Jurisdictions. 
    Summary: This study will provide the first empirical assessments of unlicensed production amounts and geography over time, identify what policies are correlated with growth or diminution of unlicensed cultivation; and test whether cultivation bans or permits are more effective at preventing unlicensed cultivation and environmental harms. ($1,042,321)
  • UC Berkeley: Hmong diasporas and cannabis: medicinal use, criminal justice consequences, and farm structure across licensed and unlicensed geographies. 
    Summary: The research project will examine the production practices, medicinal uses, and farm structures of Hmong farmers. ($630,130)

These 16 projects were chosen from 98 proposals submitted for consideration. The DCC says it decided to fund the 16 final projects based on their strong scientific methodology, their ability to provide useful information for policymaking, and their potential to generate foundational research that will support exponential future knowledge.


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