Understudied cannabis research to increase

Research of the cannabis species has been rare because of laws restricting its use. However, with state legislation such as Amendment 64, research of this understudied crop is expected to increase rapidly.

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With the passing of the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management bill, colleges and universities will be free to research, grow and cultivate industrial hemp in states where it is already legal without fear of breaking federal laws.


This is a step in the right direction when it comes to cannabis research, according to Genifer Murray, founder and CEO of CannLabs, a cannabis testing facility in Denver, Colo.

“I think (research is) just starting with the universities feeling a little bit more comfortable,” Murray said. “It’s going to happen fairly quickly.”

Colorado State University recognizes the opportunities associated with industrial hemp research and hopes to pursue them in the future, but has no control over the funding for it, according to CSU President Tony Frank. Instead, researchers and faculty will have to apply for grants themselves.

“We don’t just have money sitting around to do research,” Frank said. “All we can provide is a supportive environment.”

While CSU has yet to begin it’s industrial hemp research, CU-Boulder’s Nolan Kane of the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology department already has.

Kane and his colleague, Daniela Vergara, a research assistant in Kane’s department, have began preliminary and computational research in November in order to develop a number of important genetic tools for cannabis that are already in place for other valuable crops and cultivated species.

This research will address the diversity of cannabis, as well as aid in understanding the key differences in traits and genes of the plant in order to add knowledge to the entire industry.

“(This research) would definitely allow breeders and growers to improve their product, and it is so important for the consumer to actually know what they are getting,” Vergara said.

Kane and Vergara’s research, although it will focus mainly on hemp, cannabis containing less than 0.3 percent THC, could mean increased knowledge and consistency within medicinal cannabis plants.

“If you are growing something for a legitimate medical purposes, you want to have the key compounds be produced in a reliable fashion,” Kane said.


Murray’s team is also researching medicinal cannabis at the CannLabs facility which tests for traits like potency, pesticides, microbials, heavy metals and mycotoxins in order to make medicinal products safer for patients.

“Consumers will know what they’re getting,” Murray said. “Right now you have no idea what you are buying.”

CannLabs will be testing and formulating a variety of cannabis infused products and the flower itself.

Beginning their research in April 2010, the facility was operating in what Murray refers to as a gray area. Now that recreational marijuana is legal, research can be done much more openly, but the industry still has a long way to go, according to Murray.

“When it is federally legal is when I believe the true clinical trials will start, but people are getting a jump start now and doing their own trials,” Murray said.

This increased and lawful research of cannabis is something the Colorado Marijuana Industry Group heavily supports, according to Executive Director Michael Elliott.

“The idea of doing more research here in the state of Colorado seems very promising because we know it works, but it doesn’t necessarily work with every strain, and we don’t know about dosing and how to make it safe, and we don’t know about side effects,” Elliot said.

Collegian Green Beat Reporter Laren Cyphers can be reached at news@collegian.com.