The Cannabis Research Initiative is collecting data on variables that might be affected by cannabis legalization, such as crime, alcohol and opioid consumption, high school graduation rates and traffic accidents. (Liz Ketcham/Assistant Photo editor)
As marijuana becomes increasingly popular in Los Angeles, UCLA researchers are studying the drug’s potential benefits and risks.
Jeffrey Chen, the executive director of the Cannabis Research Initiative, said the initiative is collecting data on variables that might be affected by cannabis legalization, such as crime, alcohol and opioid consumption, high school graduation rates and traffic accidents. The Cannabis Research Initiative plans to start collecting data from LA County and then eventually regions throughout California.
“The purpose of this is to establish a baseline snapshot and see how these variables change over time and how much of it might be due to cannabis legalization,” Chen said.
The multidisciplinary research program was established three years ago, said Timothy Fong, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior and executive committee member in the Cannabis Research Initiative. He said researchers are trying to figure out what areas are the most critical to investigate. For example, they are beginning to study the biological, psychological, social, economic and public health impacts of cannabis.
“We’re just now starting to figure out all of the topics related to cannabis research,”Fong said. “What if 10 to 15 years from now, we miss an opportunity to invest research in an area?”
Fong said the researchers have looked at the social impacts of cannabis in terms of how users spend their recreational time or money and the impacts of legalization.
“Is it a good thing or are there unintended consequences?” Fong said.
Chen said LA is the largest single cannabis market in the world, and will remain in that position for the foreseeable future.
Published: May 07, 2019
Founder & Interim Editor of L.A. Cannabis News