The Canadian government wants to learn more about the health benefits and risks of marijuana use, ponying up a significant amount of money to help support research.
On Wednesday, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research announced it would be dropping roughly $24.5 million to bolster cannabis research. The money will help support 26 projects throughout Canada “that cover topics such as the use of cannabis and cannabidiol (CBD) oil for the treatment of pain and anxiety,” according to a press release from the agency.
Additionally, the CIHR said the funding “will also support research teams that will explore the therapeutic potential of cannabis in areas such as cancer, chronic pain, and neurodevelopment.”
“We are investing in research to provide the evidence needed to maintain policies for cannabis use that protect the health and safety of Canadians,” Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Canada’s minister of health, said in a statement. “The projects announced today will result in new information on the health effects of cannabis, which will be valuable to governments, public health professionals, health care providers, and all Canadians.”
The funding comes in response to the Canadian government’s legalization of recreational medical marijuana use last fall, which made it the first major world economy to do so. The new law made it legal for adults aged 19 and older to purchase, use and grow pot for recreational purposes—except for in Quebec and Alberta, where the legal age is 18.
In conjunction with the end to prohibition, Canadian officials introduced a bill in March to issue pardons for individuals who had previously been convicted of “simple cannabis possession,” defined as “a criminal charge given by law enforcement for possession of a controlled substance, in this case cannabis, for personal use with no intent to traffic.” The bill remains in limbo.
Wednesday’s announcement underscores a disconnect in the legalization movement: while countries and parts of the United States have begun ending prohibition, striking a blow against decades of fear-mongering and misinformation about pot use, there remains a dearth of credible research about its effects—whether positive or harmful. It’s what prompted Charles R. Broderick, an early investor in Canada’s cannabis industry, to donate $9 million last month to Harvard and MIT to support marijuana research.
“I want to destigmatize the conversation around cannabis—and, in part, that means providing facts to the medical community, as well as the general public,” Broderick said at the time.
Thanks to a $4.5 million contribution from the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction, the CIHR said Wednesday that the funding will “also support research that will examine the public health impact” of Canada’s new law. A $2.85 million contribution from the Mental Health Commission of Canada will ensure that the funding “will also go towards research aimed at addressing key research gaps regarding cannabis use and mental health,” the agency said.
The funding will also include $390,000 to support a pair of cannabis public awareness projects in Alberta, while the University of Calgary received money to provide sessions designed to help students better understand marijuana’s effects.
“We have put in place a strict regulatory framework for cannabis that aims to keep cannabis out of the hands of youth and the profits out of the hands of criminals,” Bill Blair, the minister of border security and organized crime reduction, said Wednesday. “This research will make an important contribution as we continue to roll out the regulatory framework. We must continue to ensure that prevention, harm reduction and education remain at the forefront of these efforts.”
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