Colorado Institute of Cannabis Research To Embark on Six New Cannabis Studies

A total of $800,000 is being used to fund the new cannabis research initiatives.

Colorado State University (CSU), Pueblo’s Institute of Cannabis Research (ICR) announced that it will fund $800,000 to cannabis research, split between six studies conducted by CSU and the University of Colorado (UC). The ICR is the official Cannabis Research Institute of Colorado, and as of 2019, funding comes from the Colorado Marijuana Tax Cash Fund.

The six studies include a variety of unique topics related to CBD and children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, the various effects of THC and its properties that may lead to addiction disorder, new ways to measure impairment for cannabis in roadside tests, and more.

According to an interview conducted by Westword with ICR director Chad Kelly, many more studies are already being conducted in Colorado. “There are a number of studies out there in which I’m very excited to see what the outcomes are. In many cases, I’m sure there will be additional research needed to carry it to the next level, but we’re really fortunate to be able to engage the best researchers throughout Colorado,” said Kelly.

Endocannabinoids in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Changes with Cannabidiol (CBD) treatment

 Led by Dr. Nicole Tartaglia, who is also a professor at UC Anshutz Medical Campus, this study will explore how CBD shows promise as a treatment for behavioral difficulties in children with autism. “In this project we will compare levels of 14 different endocannabinoids and the primary enzymes that regulate them in autistic children 4-17 years of age from the CASCADE study to non-autistic children in the same age range,” an ICR study summary stated. “Further, we will study changes in the endocannabinoid system in autistic children after treatment with CBD, and also explore the endocannabinoid profile of autistic children who had a positive response to CBD treatment to help make better recommendations related to which autistic children might respond best to CBD treatment.”

Examination of the bi-directional interactions between phytocannabinoids and a human-associated gut microbiota

Co-led by Dr. Jessica Prenni and D. Tiffany Weir, this study will explore how phytocannabinoids interact with the human gut microbiome. “Successful completion of this project will generate fundamental knowledge around how phytocannabinoids modulate the gut microbiome and provide proof-of concept and preliminary data for exploring interindividual differences in phytocannabinoids metabolism that can be leveraged in future human clinical studies utilizing phytocannabinoids for reducing both intestinal and systemic inflammation,” the summary explained.

Investigation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons resulting from vaped or dabbed cannabis/cannabis-derived products with known adverse health effects

The vitamin E acetate illness that occurred back in 2019 prompted many studies about the potential harms of vaping both cannabis or non-cannabis products. This study, led by Dr. Alison Pauer, will closely examine a toxicants called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), which is classified as a carcinogen. Specifically, the study claims that terpenes can produce PAH when cannabis is heated up to very high temperatures. “Thus, PAHs are already a public health concern, and we will investigate the potential generation of PAHs from vaping or electronic dabbing of cannabis and cannabis-derived products, especially those with high terpene concentrations,” ICR explained.

Developing predictive models to distinguish alcohol use, cannabis use and co-use: an exploration of electroenceph-alography (EEG) metrics and traditional intoxication measures

Determining cannabis impairment in drivers is difficult because it can remain in a person’s system long after a person has consumed. This study, led by CSU professors Dr. Hollis Karoly and Dr. Patti Davies, will explore the efficacy of separately identifying impairment through cannabis or alcohol with roadside tests using elecrtroencephalography (EEG). “The goal of this study is to use EEG to differentiate alcohol and cannabis co-intoxication from single-substance intoxication and identify which of the aforementioned neurocognitive components are most strongly associated with alcohol, cannabis or co-use,” the summary stated.

Increasing the Analytical Testing Capability of Cannabinoids and Concomitant Phytomolecules in Cannabis-derived Plant Matrices

For a more plant-focused study, Dr. Williem Baurerle seeks to examine cannabis water use requirements and determine the most efficient way to increase nutrients and conserve water in the process. Developing best practices to improve and optimize nutrient and irrigation efficiency will provide small- to large-scale Cannabis producers with scientific knowledge to increase their input efficiency, reduce resource waste, and increase the sustainability of a horticulture industry critical to Colorado’s economic growth and prosperity,” ICR explained.

Identifying the neuronal cell-types responsible for the rewarding and aversive properties of THC

UC Boulder professor Dr. David Root seeks to find out about how THC offers “rewarding qualities” and claims that it can sometimes lead to addiction. “Our primary goal is to identify which neurons in the brain’s ‘reward center’, the ventral tegmental area, are affected by THC, how these neurons are physiologically altered by THC, and the necessity of these neurons for the rewarding or aversive properties of THC,” the study summary stated. 

In addition to these six newest studies, ICR has also funded five cannabis studies in 2023 and 10 in 2022 that are ongoing. The ICR started in 2015, and has completed 40 studies since 2018.

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