U Research Seeks to Understand Medical Cannabis Benefits and Interactions

Thousands of new Utah patients are approved for an active medical cannabis card every month. But much remains unknown about how cannabis interacts with other medications, what other factors increase its risks, and even which health conditions medical cannabis is effective for.

University of Utah Health, in partnership with the state, has launched a new research initiative to advance scientific understanding of medical cannabis and help patients and providers make informed health decisions about this increasingly common medication.

Valerie Ahanonu, senior manager of the CMCR

Valerie Ahanonu BS’09, senior manager of the Center for Medical Cannabis Research, says the center will support cannabis research within the U and statewide; enhance education on cannabis for patients, providers, and pharmacists; and work toward establishing a DEA-approved site for growing research-grade medical cannabis.

Much of the research will focus on medical cannabis already on the market in Utah, says Rep. Jennifer Dailey-Provost BS’02 (along with an emergency health graduate certificate from the U), who sponsored a bill helping fund the center. “This is one of the premier research institutions in the nation,” she adds. “We couldn’t ask for a better place to keep the heart of a meaningful research program than the University of Utah.”

Jerry Cochran MSW’05, interim director for the center, says that 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 notes. “Science needs to take the lead in this area so that we continue to help people.”

The center will partner with the U’s Genetic Science Learning Center to create 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.


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