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University of Kentucky Launches its Cannabis Research Center

By Leo Bear-McGuinness

Published: Sep 23, 2022   

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The state of Kentucky will soon welcome its first cannabis research center.

In press statement on Wednesday, September 21, the University of Kentucky (UK) announced the launch of “a new center that will advance research on the medical use of cannabis.”

Based within the UK’s Center on Drug and Alcohol Research, the new UK Cannabis Center will conduct research on the health effects of cannabis, “including its risks and benefits when used to treat certain medical conditions.”

Blue-grass research

The center was legislated this April with the passing of the state House Bill 604, which afforded the center $2 million in funding over the next two years.

While the state may now become a beacon of cannabis research, Kentucky residents are still without legal cannabis access, medical or recreational.

The director of the UK Cannabis Center hopes its studies can help reassure local politicians and inform eventual policy.

“The legislature is interested in having us explore the conditions for which medical cannabis might be useful, as well as the most effective dosing and route of administration for each condition,” Shanna Babalonis, director of the UK Cannabis Center, said in a statement.

A new 12-member board will work with Babalonis to establish the center’s research agenda.

These objectives will likely include clinical studies as well as analysis of public health data.

“The new center will allow us to expand our clinical research, particularly focusing on medical conditions that may be helped by medical cannabis,” Babalonis said.

Unlucky in Kentucky

Activists and politicians have tried three times, unsuccessfully, to legalize medical cannabis in Kentucky. Three legalization bills have been presented to the state House, in 2015, 2020, and 2022. The latter two were approved but stalled at the Senate.

Exasperated by the situation, the state’s governor, Andy Beshear, announced this April that he was considering legalizing medical cannabis himself by executive action. Since then, Beshear has appointed a medical cannabis advisory panel to gather views on the issue and inform potential policy.


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