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2023 announcements

California announces $20M cannabis research grant recipients

Apr 25, 2023

Sixteen grant recipients will study medicinal use of cannabis, cannabis potency, health of the cannabis industry, monopolies and unfair competition, and California legacy genetics & genetic sequencing

CALIFORNIA – The California Department of Cannabis Control (DCC) awarded $20 million in research grants to 16 academic institutions. These funds will support scientific research on the impact of cannabis on the mental health of young people, novel cannabinoids like Delta-8 and Delta-10 THC, and a first-of-its kind study of California’s legacy cannabis genetics, intended to preserve the history, value, and diversity of the communities that steward them.

“It is the Department’s aspiration that these studies will advance the body of scientific research, further our understanding of cannabis, and aid to the continued development and refinement of the legal framework,” said Rasha Salama, Chief Deputy Director at DCC. “These studies will provide valuable insights on topics of interest to California’s consumers, businesses, and policy makers and the Department looks forward to sharing them once they are completed.”

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego will build on an existing federally funded project to provide California-specific data on the impact of cannabinoids on mental and physical health during adolescence. A team at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo will study how differences in local regulation can impact market power, create unfair competitive practices, and impact the growth of the California cannabis market. 

Several projects will examine the impacts of cannabis potency on human health. A collaboration between the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) and University of California Irvine will conduct the first double-blind, placebo-controlled, federally compliant, drug-administration study evaluating the intoxicating effects of inhaled cannabis plant compared to inhaled concentrates. It is expected establish a clinically significant threshold to define high and low THC concentrations.

The following is a list of all awarded grants by category: 

Cannabis Potency 

  • UC Irvine:A Translational Study on the Short- and Long-term Effects of High-dose THC. Summary: This research study will Collect detailed data to determine the acute effects of high-dose THC on mood, cognition, and abuse potential; characterize the absorption, distribution, and metabolism of high-dose THC; and examine whether buildup of THC in body organs causes persistent effects on physical and mental health ($2,000,000)
  • UCLA: An Evaluation of Synthetic and Semi-Synthetic Cannabinoids. Summary: With the fast-emerging challenges of novel cannabinoids, this research will define and describe intoxication associated with the synthetic and semi-synthetic versions of what is found in cannabis plants. ($2,000,000)
  • UCLA – The Adverse Effects of Inhaled Cannabis Concentrates (dabs) Compared to Smoked Cannabis: A controlled human-drug administration study of cannabis potency. Summary: This study will evaluate the intoxicating effect, and clinically significant thresholds for defining high and low concentrations of THC and identify and compare differences between inhaled concentrates and smoked cannabis. ($1,832,997)
  • UCLA: Interactions Between delta-9-THC and CBD: A Controlled Human Drug-administration Study Probing a Harm Reduction Strategy. Summary: This study will provide direct information evaluating interactions between various delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) ratios, how these ratios affect intoxication and health effects, and whether certain ratios may attenuate adverse effects. ($1,662,744) 
  • UCSF: The Impacts of the Potency of Cannabis Concentrates and THC Metabolism on Cognitive Impairment in Young Adults. Summary: This project will study the impact of THC potency in cannabis concentrates and genetic predisposition to poor THC metabolism on cognitive impairment in young adults. ($904,052)
  • UC Davis –Chemistry, Toxicology, and Brain Disposition of Cannabinoids, Novel Cannabinoids, and Mixtures in Electronic Cigarettes. Summary: This project aims to thoroughly describe the chemistry, in vitro toxicology, and interactions at the blood-brain barrier of the vaped aerosols from Δ9-THC, Δ8-THC, Δ10-THC, CBD, THC-O-acetate, CBD-O-acetate, and CBD: THC mixtures produced from a representative vaping device. ($856,881) 
  • UC San Diego:  Longitudinal outcomes related to cannabis potency and toxicological analysis and cognitive, brain, and psychiatric functioning in young adult cannabis users. Summary: This study will examine cannabinoid concentrations in the body as predictors of cognitive, psychiatric, and neural outcomes in young adults. Because this is a longitudinal study, the project term will be four years. ($676,735)
  • UC San Diego – Longitudinal Associations of Cannabis Use and Mental Health Among Adolescents. Summary:This research will build upon existing longitudinal data from the Adolescent Brain and Cognitive Development Study to study the impact of cannabis use on as mental and physical health measures of adolescents. ($240,417)

Medicinal Use of Cannabis 

  • UCLA: Cannabis use for medicinal purposes among clinical populations in California: Population estimates of prevalence, frequency, quantity, and reasons for use. Summary: This project will focus on the epidemiology of medicinal cannabis use among clinical populations in California to describe the prevalence and patterns of medicinal cannabis use including detailed practices and behaviors related to medicinal cannabis use, elucidating sources, dosing, types of products, mode of use, patterns of use, perceived impact on symptoms/conditions, and self-reported adverse effects including disordered use. ($1,849,962)
  • UCLA: The State of Medical Cannabis in California. Summary: This project will collect and analyze data regarding the use of medicinal cannabis, including the diagnoses associated with medicinal cannabis use, where medicinal cannabis patients access cannabis, the preferred product formulations and routes of administration, and the cannabinoid content of products used by the medicinal cannabis patient population. ($437,465)

Health of the Cannabis Industry 

  • UCLA: Assessing the Health of California’s Cannabis Industry. Summary: This project will provide a rigorous and objective assessment of California’s cannabis market to meet the statutory requirements of Revenue and Taxation Code §34020.1 and provide recommendations on how to define and create measure for future assessments. ($1,679,972)

Monopolies and Unfair Competition 

  • Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo: Local Regulations, Market Power, and the Evolution of the California Cannabis Industry. Summary: This study will examine the effects that local regulation throughout California has had on market concentration and prices, and how differences in local regulation can impact market power, unfair competitive practices, and the growth of the California cannabis market. ($444,643)
  • UC Berkeley: Understanding Investment, Operating Pressures, and Anti-Competitive Characteristics in the Cannabis Industry. Summary: This project will examine whether and to what degree monopolistic and anti-competitive tendencies are emerging in the cannabis industry, the overall patterns of investment and ownership that threaten the competitive landscape of the California cannabis economy, the protective factors that enable small and equity businesses to withstand predatory behaviors, and the current and potential policies that are effective in preventing anti-competitive behaviors. ($855,434)

California Legacy Genetics & Genetic Sequencing 

  • Cal Poly, Humboldt: Legacy Cannabis Genetics: People and Their Plants, a Community-Driven Study. Summary: This project is a multi-disciplinary, community-based participatory research project that will identify, document, and help to preserve the history, value, and diversity of California’s rural legacy cannabis genetics and the communities that steward them. ($2,699,178)

Other Research Topics 

  • UC Berkeley: Licensed and Unlicensed Cultivation Across Banned and Permitted Jurisdictions. Summary: This study will provide the first empirical assessments of unlicensed production amounts and geography over time; identify what policies are correlated with growth or diminution of unlicensed cultivation; estimate total unlicensed market product, including leakage from the licensed to unlicensed market; and test whether cultivation bans or permits are more effective at preventing unlicensed cultivation and environmental harms. ($1,042,321)
  • UC Berkeley: Hmong diasporas and cannabis: medicinal use, criminal justice consequences, and farm structure across licensed and unlicensed geographies. Summary: The research project will examine the production practices, medicinal uses, and farm structures of Hmong farmers. ($630,130)

Of the 98 proposals submitted for consideration, 16 proposals were awarded $19,942,918 in funding based on their strong scientific methodology, their ability to provide useful information for policymaking, their advancement of public understanding of cannabis, and their potential to generate foundational research that will support exponential future knowledge.