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Cannabis Research Considerations

While research is beginning to elucidate synergistic effects associated with cannabis and tobacco co-use, many questions remain about the health impact of cannabis use and social consequences from the legalization of recreational cannabis use on Californians’ health. Proposition 64 allows California adults 21 and older to use and possess limited quantities of cannabis and will allow cannabis sales to adults starting on January 1, 2018; however, cannabis may not be consumed in public places or locations where tobacco smoking is prohibited. Although use and possession are considered legal under state law, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) maintains a Schedule 1 classification for cannabis as of August 2016, classifying it as a drug with “no currently accepted medical use” in the United States and permits the Justice Department to intervene with legal authority in matters that involve cannabis.

Californians will have easier access to cannabis products while scientific evidence is lacking to support health benefit claims from the industry and health consequences of the drug. TRDRP encourages investigators to begin rigorous scientific research into the health effects and social and policy consequences associated with cannabis in all its forms (e.g., combusted, aerosolized, edibles, tinctures, concentrates) to inform its potential contribution to cardiovascular disease and cancer and to elucidate potential health benefits.

Given the contradiction in state and federal law, we encourage investigators interested in cannabis research to be familiar with University policies that inform types of research that require a DEA license/FDA approval and research that does not need federal oversight; for example, observational studies that do not involve providing product. The current political climate brings unknown consequences for individuals engaged in cannabis-related research and we encourage careful consideration of potential outcomes from doing cannabis research on your career prior to starting an application. Please refer to materials included in the links below for general guidance and considerations:

Information for Researchers on Conducting Marijuana Research at the University of California. Link goes to a pdf prepared by the Research Policy Analysis & Coordination unit of UCOP Research & Graduate Studies in consultation with the Office of General Counsel.  Document affirms that UC research remains subject to the same federal rules and regulations as before the passage of Proposition 64. The bulk of the document reminds researchers and administrators of applicable law, regulations and UC policies, as well as whom to contact on campus before deciding to undertake research involving marijuana.

UC guidance on use and possession of marijuana on UC property. A UCOP website that includes systemwide policy with regards to cannabis. This site will be updated as cannabis-related legislation changes at the state and federal level.

Washington State University Guidance on Cannabis Research, Teaching, and Outreach Activities: Includes examples of scientific research that requires a DEA controlled substance license and FDA oversight as well as research, for example observational studies, that do not need federal oversight. Written for the general public.