Colorado State University will be studying a wide range of economic and health effects of the state’s legal cannabis industry thanks to recently granted funds from the county and state. CSU at Pueblo will be receiving $270,000 from the county of Pueblo, funding which was obtained through the taxation of marijuana sales in the county. The county granted the university $220,000 for medical marijuana research and another $50,000 to conduct four separate, economic impact studies.
With near unanimous support from the state’s lawmakers both Democrat and Republican, Colorado’s Governor Hickenlooper signed Senate bill 191 allocating another $900,000 from the state’s marijuana tax fund to go to CSU Pueblo for further impact studies and research on marijuana. This infusion of research funds positions CSU Pueblo as the first regional four-year university in the country to conduct such a study.
On the economic side, the study aims to see how the legalization of marijuana in Colorado is affecting local economies for better or worse. The impact studies will not only look at the direct economic benefits as in those to storefront dispensaries, but in particular it will look at how revenues raised through job creation and the sales of cannabis compare to the expenditures required in the regulation of those sales. It will also likely look at the cost-benefit analysis of legalization versus the costs involved with law enforcement and prosecution if it had remained an illegal substance. The study is also meant to look at the impact of resource usage in the production of marijuana including water and energy usages.
Another stated objective of the study is to determine appropriate agricultural buffer zones for the production of marijuana crops. Pueblo County is interested in learning how far apart cannabis crops with low levels of THC, such as hemp, need to be from crops with high levels of THC to avoid cross-contamination. “This is a very welcome step by the DEA, which will only increase the amount of careful, rigorous research that universities undertake with regard to cannabis,” Rick Kreminski, provost and executive vice president at CSU-Pueblo, told The Pueblo Chieftain in August.
Further studies of hemp production have been proposed Kreminski to look at the remedial affect to toxic soils that cannabis could provide. Kreminski has stated that hemp could potentially help uptake heavy metals in the soil such as selenium, which can be problematic for many growers in that area of the country. He also discussed the opportunities the funds will allow for researchers into the engineering of different strains of hemp.
Human health effects are to be examined as well. This side of the research is a little more difficult to draw concrete deductions from as currently without a Schedule I licence. The laws prohibit the university from administering marijuana to anyone; they can only study those that self-identify as marijuana users. Regardless, researchers at CSU hope to look at the benefits of medical marijuana on those who suffer from seizures for whom traditional medication is unable to help.
hey are able to administer cannabis to lab mice. Studies will be conducted on the neurological effects and how different brain cells of the mice interact with each other while under the influence of medical cannabis. Other health issues the university hopes to conduct research on with the funds include continued trials on the benefits of cannabis for sufferers of such diseases and afflictions as PTSD, glaucoma, Crohn’s disease and various cancers. State lawmakers hope the infusion of funds to create this new institute will also help position the Colorado State University at Pueblo as a frontrunner in the research of cannabis, hemp and hemp oil.
In anticipation of state funds, CSU Pueblo president Lesley Di Mare has proposed the creation of the Institute of Cannabis Research. The first of its kind in the nation, the institute will be a multi-disciplinary consortium of researchers and students looking at myriad effects of medical marijuana. The institute’s goals are to publish articles and host scholarly conferences about marijuana research.
The state funds will help to create a peer-reviewed journal devoted to research on hemp production and medical cannabis usage. “It will bring positive light to this institution. That doesn’t mean that we are pro-reeational marijuana or pro-medical marijuana. We are pro-research,” Di Mare told reporters at The Pueblo Chieftain last August.
Administrators at the university are hopeful that with the establishment of the institute, they can help to produce or foster the development of intellectual property surrounding medical marijuana and hemp. Patent development into procedure or engineering of cannabis would help the university, the region, the state and the industry as a whole.
On a related note, a Colorado State University researcher recently raised more than $40,000 through a crowd-funding platform to be able to study the effects of long-term usage of medical marijuana on sufferers of multiple sclerosis. The director of the Integrative Neurophysiology Lab at CSU, Thorsten Rudroff, will use the funds to compare motor functions and glucose intake of patients who use prescribed marijuana or those that self-medicate to individuals with MS who do not use or take any form of marijuana.
This is not Colorado State University’s first foray in the field of cannabis research. Since the summer of 2015, CSU at Fort Collins and other locations including Yellow Jacket have been growing and experimenting with industrial hemp. In conjunction with the Colorado state department of agriculture, the Colorado Agricultural Experiment Station, a function of CSU’s department of agriculture, is looking at what types of hemp seeds grow best in Colorado’s different microclimates. Colorado is one of roughly half of the states where hemp is legal to be grown commercially.
The granting of these funds both by Pueblo County and the State of Colorado will help to add scholarships and clinically obtained data to the debate about marijuana as a viable pharmaceutical, agricultural crop and economic driver. As more states allow the legal use of either medicinal or recreational marijuana use, or for the production of industrial hemp and hemp-derived products, the more institutions such as Colorado State University and other non-profit research organizations will have access to funding and opportunities for further study.