Inside look at cannabis research at CSU-Pueblo

Published: Nov. 30, 2016 at 10:49 AM MST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

The Institute of Cannabis Research (ICR) at Colorado State University-Pueblo has finalized the awards for cannabis-related research that will be conducted on the campus in the coming year, using Pueblo County and state funding.

The ICR exists to generate new knowledge of cannabis and its derivatives through education and research.

"We are an academic institution, so anything we do that promotes research is part of our mission," said CSU-Pueblo Provost Dr. Rick Kreminski.

While there has been significant cannabis-related research over the past few decades in certain areas, many gaps in knowledge remain, resulting in unscientific and anecdotal assessments of its benefits and risks to society.

Currently, 10 CSU-Pueblo faculty are leading the research that is categorized by major projects, pilot studies and professional development.

They represent a variety of academic disciplines, including: psychology, education, engineering, business, biology and chemistry.

"There is a psychology study on seizures that is an observational study of humans who have seizures and current medicines don't work. So they are self medicating with cannabis and that is just an observational study," said Kreminski.

Among the major projects are an examination of the effects of medicinal cannabinoids (CBD) on seizures in adults with medically refractory epilepsy, analysis of industrial hemp fibers in 3-D printing, and development of a cannabis growth and research infrastructure at the university.

Some of the pilot studies include development of a novel method for extracting CBD from cannabis leaves and flowers, an analysis of the effects of CBD in the neural pathways that promote emotional learning and memory, an investigation of the role of endocannabinoid-induced metabolic changes on viral infections, and a study on K-12 education issues including building on the state’s most recent Colorado Healthy Kids survey data.

The research represents direct investments of $220,000 from Pueblo County and $739,946 of state monies.

The university also will conduct a Pueblo County impact study with an additional $50,000 of Pueblo County funding.

The state monies for research represent most of the allocation from the last year’s funding through Senate Bill 16-191, that provided $900,000 to CSU-Pueblo to create the Institute of Cannabis Research.

The remaining funds are going toward costs associated with next year’s cannabis research conference to be held in April 2017 on the campus; the development of a journal of cannabis research; and the addition of an interim managing director position to help with coordination, communication and institute reporting.

In addition to the faculty research, an ICR steering committee is developing infrastructure for the institute and drafting policies and procedures.

New communication efforts also are being implemented to explain the progress, goals and vision of the institute to elected officials, donors and the community.

“I’m very pleased with the progress being made at the institute,” said CSU-Pueblo President Lesley Di Mare. “It is imperative that we are good stewards of the state and county funds through our research and education mission, and that we communicate our progress to our constituents.”

During the upcoming Colorado legislative session, university leaders will present a 2018 budget plan to continue the work of the institute. Additionally, the institute steering committee is responsible for ensuring its current programming is implemented as well as laying the groundwork for the future of the institute.

New research strands, collaboration with other universities, government, and the private sector are being considered, as well as potential state, national and international partnerships.

In all, 100 percent of the county funds and 82 percent of the state funds are being used directly for independent, objective cannabis-related research at CSU-Pueblo in 2017.

The remaining state funds are supporting the 2017 national conference and management of the institute.

The impact study being funded by Pueblo County will have as many as six faculty analyzing a tremendous amount of data.

"There are an additional 10 faculty, who with other faculty colleagues, students, and graduate students, will be conducting cannabis-related research from multiple academic disciplines," said Jennifer Mullen, interim managing director for the Institute of Cannabis Research.

Those 10 faculty come from six different disciplines, psychology, education, engineering, business, biology and chemistry.

The areas of research being conducted are also quite diverse.

Some of the areas of research involve characterizing new strains of hemp, extracting cannabinoids from hemp, and assessing their potential related to brain function. Other research involves examining possible therapeutic and medicinal value of cannabis compounds.

"Some of the pilot studies being conducted include extensive data collection and survey research in K-12 educational institutions and a business analysis of jobs created in the cannabis industry," said Mullen.

If more funding had been awarded, the university says it would have been able to conduct additional cannabis-related research.

It's also important to note that although these faculty are focusing their 2017 research on cannabis-related studies, all faculty at CSU-Pueblo continue to conduct research in their respective disciplines.

Simultaneously, the Institute of Cannabis Research is identifying its vision, goals, and resource needs for the future, as it determines how best to fulfill its mission to develop new knowledge of cannabis and its derivatives through research and education.