New Center for Cannabis Research Launches at UMN School of Public Health

Today, the University of Minnesota School of Public Health announces the launch of a new Cannabis Research Center (CRC). The center will assess the impact of legalizing adult cannabis use and help inform future cannabis policies and practices in the state of Minnesota.

Governor Tim Waltz signed HF 100 into law in May, legalizing the use of cannabis for adults in Minnesota. To build a strong research infrastructure from the ground up to learn how cannabis is used and how it affects different populations and communities in Minnesota, lawmakers included in the bill $2.5 million annually from the cannabis sales tax to establish CRCs.

Cannabis is a psychoactive drug that has physical and mental effects, but information on the impact of legalizing adult cannabis use is limited and inconsistent, largely due to the lack of formalized evaluations, robust data sets, and robust research programs. The CRC will fill this gap in Minnesota’s public health infrastructure by collaborating with organizations, agencies and individuals across the state in research to improve our understanding of the health effects of cannabis, including its impact on underage users and how it interacts with related substances , such as opioids and alcohol. The CRC will also examine how legalizing adult cannabis use will affect health equity and public safety.

SPH Professor Traci Toomey, a public health policy expert with a special focus on substance use control policies, will serve as the CRC’s inaugural director.

“We are extremely grateful to the Minnesota Legislature and Governor Waltz for their leadership and support in establishing Minnesota’s first ever cannabis-focused research center here at the School of Public Health,” Toomey said. “I am excited to lead the Center for Cannabis Research and, together with my colleagues in the School of Public Health, conduct innovative research on the health effects of adult legalization of cannabis use on individuals and communities across the state, including prevention and substance use disorder treatment, justice issues, education and decriminalization.

The CRC has already established several core principles that will guide its work, including:

  • A leading scientific community in cannabis research.
  • Upholding anti-racist principles by prioritizing equity issues and incorporating anti-racist practices into collaborations, research questions and methods, interpretations and communications.
  • Maximizing the health benefits and minimizing the health problems associated with cannabis by addressing timely issues now and in the future.
  • As a trusted source of cannabis research information for individuals, communities and organizations.

SPH Interim Dean Timothy Beebe said the first priorities for the CRC include identifying key staff and faculty members with relevant expertise, creating an executive committee to help guide the center’s strategy, and identifying statewide partners to help advance the work of the CRC.

“We will work collaboratively with state and local agencies and community-based organizations to explore and identify initial research priorities related to cannabis use in Minnesota,” Beebe said. “I am confident that under Dr. Toomey’s leadership, the CRC will provide the data and evidence our policymakers need to make informed decisions about cannabis to prevent injustice and adverse health impacts in Minnesota.”

“As Minnesota’s only school of public health, we are honored to uphold our state’s significant reputation as a leader in health innovation and research. We are grateful to state leaders for giving us this opportunity to help ensure the best possible health outcomes for all Minnesotans.”

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