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Utah research partnership seeks better understanding of medical cannabis

By Jamie Lampros - Special to the Standard-Examiner | Dec 3, 2023

Richard Vogel, Associated Press

This Monday, May 20, 2019, file photo, shows a marijuana leaf on a plant at a cannabis grow in Gardena, Calif.

SALT LAKE CITY — The University of Utah, in partnership with the state of Utah, has launched a new research initiative to take a deeper scientific look at medical cannabis.

The research will look at the different ways people are using cannabis and try to approach an understanding of its benefits and risks.

Each month, thousands of Utahns are approved to receive an active medical cannabis card.

Valerie Ahanonu, senior manager of the new Center for Medical Cannabis Research, said the overall aim is to “look at the methodology behind how people are using cannabis.”

In 2018, Utahns were given access to medical cannabis for therapeutic use for certain conditions. However, much remains unknown about how cannabis interacts with other medications, other health conditions and even mental health, according to a news release.

The center will partner with the Genetic Science Learning Center at the U of U to come up with educational material about medical cannabis and will also work with the Spencer S. Eccles Health Sciences Library to produce a database full of up-to-date information.

“This is one of the premier research institutions in the nation,” Rep. Jennifer Dailey-Provost, D-Salt Lake City, who sponsored the bill that funds the center, said in the release. “We couldn’t ask for a better place to keep the heart of a meaningful research program than the University of Utah.”

Dailey-Provost said much of the research will focus on medical cannabis already on the market in Utah.

“We keep hearing from providers that they just don’t have enough information to comfortably recommend this for patients,” she said. “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.”

Jerry Cochran, interim director for the center, said with all the positive and negative hype surrounding medical cannabis, it’s important the community has a trustworthy source of evidence based 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,” he said in the release. “Science needs to take the lead in this area so that we continue to help people.”


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