The University of Utah has officially launched the brand-new Center for Medical Cannabis Research (CMCR) made possible through state funding approved during the 2023 legislative session. With the center now established, university officials hope to lead the way in medical cannabis research even as state regulators continue to work on improving access to patients.
The Daily Utah Chronicle reports that the CMCR’s mission is to “promote methodologically sound research, evaluating the safety and efficacy of cannabis and cannabis products used with therapeutic intent.” University officials say that the center will also promote research opportunities outside of the school itself.
Establishing the CMCR marks an important milestone in Utah’s medical cannabis program. Once thought to be a state that would fight tooth and nail to avoid allowing medical cannabis, Utah has become a nationwide leader as well as a model for establishing responsible medical cannabis production, distribution, and consumption. Funding the CMCR further demonstrates the state’s commitment to maximizing the medical benefits cannabis offers.
When Utah’s medical cannabis program first launched in 2020, there were just over a dozen medical cannabis pharmacies ready to open. All of them were located in major urban areas. Yet lawmakers saw the need for additional dispensaries in more rural locations and set about to make it happen. The most recently opened pharmacy, Zion Medicinal, is in extreme southern Utah. It serves patients in the Cedar City and St. George areas.
Lawmakers have also modified other parts of the program to improve accessibility and efficiency. For example, the number of physicians available to recommend medical cannabis was increased exponentially with the addition of the Limited Medical Provider (LMP) program. Furthermore, when lawmakers extended medical cannabis card duration from 90 days to six months and eventually one year, they made life easier on both patients and medical providers.
As Utah lawmakers and regulators have worked continuously to improve the state’s medical cannabis program, funding the CMCR is just the next logical step in staying ahead of medical cannabis. Research conducted at the center will begin answering important questions about medical cannabis efficacy, delivery, dosage, and a range of other issues.
Additional research cannot come soon enough for scores of medical cannabis patients who simply want relief from chronic conditions that make life difficult. Chronic pain patients immediately come to mind. As the primary users of medical cannabis, many of the chronic pain patients who turn to the plant have tried just about every other treatment without success.
Unfortunately, relying on medical cannabis for pain relief comes with baggage. There are still many people within the healthcare community who are not convinced that cannabis does anything for pain. There will undoubtedly be a ton of future research intended to answer that question once and for all.
Cannabis research has historically been difficult to conduct due to the federal government’s restrictions and who can grow marijuana for research purposes. But with a record number of states approving medical cannabis and the federal government loosening up a bit, research is now more possible than ever before. The University of Utah aims to take advantage of that through their new research center.
Time will tell what research comes out of the CMCR. I suspect medical cannabis patients and advocates far and wide will be looking for definitive data clearly demonstrating marijuana’s efficacy as a medicine. In the meantime, all eyes will be on Utah as the state continues to be a role model for others hoping to refine their medical cannabis programs.