New U.S. research institute will study the effects of cannabis and how best to manage it

The new Cannabis Research Institute in Chicago is expected to do work on crop production, health benefits and risks, worker training and advocacy on policy issues such as social equity.

By Robert McCoppin, Chicago Tribune

A new cannabis research centre in Chicago will explore the effects of the plant and how best to manage the industry.

The Cannabis Research Institute is expected to do work on crop production, health benefits and risks, worker training and advocacy on policy issues such as social equity.

Likely topics include the impacts of cannabis legalization, demographic gaps of medical cannabis programs and effects on medical conditions, such as anxiety and inflammation.

It’s a joint project between the state of Illinois and city of Chicago, to be operated by the Discovery Partners Institute, part of the University of Illinois system.

The few cannabis research centres at other universities, such as UCLA, Harvard and MIT, have taken money from cannabis investors, the Los Angeles Times reported.

While the Illinois institute will work to improve the legal industry, it will stay impartial by not accepting funding from companies that directly work in cannabis, Discovery Partners Executive Director Bill Jackson said. Instead, it will be funded primarily by federal, state and local grants.

The institute also must work with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to conduct its research, because marijuana remains illegal under federal law. However, Jackson said, the institute may do work related to President Joe Biden’s recent announcement to reconsider the designation of marijuana as a Schedule I substance with no medical value and a high potential for abuse.

Illinois is an ideal place to conduct cannabis research, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said, because it’s home to four of the biggest cannabis companies in the nation, and one of the largest markets.

“Being able to do research, which the (National Institutes of Health) hasn’t done much of, as you know, being able to foster new innovations for the industry, all of that should happen in the city of Chicago and in the state of Illinois,” the governor said. “And so having a research institute just makes all the sense in the world, and the industry itself believes that.”

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the institute would promote the city’s position in the industry and expand the science needed to shape public policy. With the opening of the institute in the Loop to proceed over the next few months, administrators have begun the search for an executive director.

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