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Center For Medical Cannabis Research Launched In Utah

University of Utah Health has launched a new research initiative to advance scientific understanding of medical cannabis and assist patients and healthcare providers make informed decisions regarding its use.

In partnership with the state, the Center for Medical Cannabis Research (CMCR) will delve into the methodology of how people are using cannabis, and to create a translational approach to understanding its benefits and risks

“We keep hearing from providers that they just don’t have enough information to comfortably recommend this for patients,” said Representative Jennifer Dailey-Provost, who sponsored the bill that funds the CMCR. “What we ultimately need is reliable, evidence-based research information on the medication that we are already offering to patients in the state of Utah.”

Another major focus of the CMCR is to improve education for both patients and providers. It will partner with the Genetic Science Learning Center at the University to create educational materials. The CMCR will also collaborate with Spencer S. Eccles Health Sciences Library to create an accessible database of quality and up-to-date information.

“In certain circles, medical cannabis is being pushed as a cure-all, but I think it’s going to help certain things and not others,” said Jerry Cochran, M.S.W., Ph.D.,  who is interim director for the CMCR. “Science needs to take the lead in this area so that we continue to help people.”

Sourcing cannabis for studies poses quite a challenge due to the limited supply of research-grade material from DEA approved sites. Among its functions, the CMCR will  also support the establishment of an DEA-approved cannabis grow site for its research.

Utah’s medical cannabis program kicked off in early 2020 after a successful ballot initiative in 2018. Patients must have a medical cannabis card issued by the state and be verified by a Qualified Medical Provider (QMP). Among the qualifying conditions under the Utah Medical Cannabis Act are autism, cancer and chronic pain.

According to statistics from Utah Health and Human Services, the number of registered patients in the state in October was 73,605.

While the state has a medical cannabis program, Utah is tough on marijuana use for recreational purposes and is one of a minority of states still punishing simple possession of marijuana with jail time. According to the Marijuana Policy Project, prosecution for as little as an ounce or less of marijuana can result in a six-month jail sentence.

Steven Gothrinet
Steven Gothrinet has been part of the Hemp Gazette in-house reporting team since 2015. Steven's broad interest in cannabis was initially fueled by the realisation of industrial hemp's versatility across multiple sectors. You can contact Steve here.

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