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Langara Cannabis Research Group to publish new studies on the drug

Group worked around regulations in order to create educational material

Closeup of a cannabis plant. Researchers at Langara broke bounds to create educational material about the drug. Photo by Martijn.
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Reported by Desirée Garcia

Despite being prohibited from using marijuana for their experiments, the Langara Cannabis Research Group is on the verge of publishing its first of five studies on the social, environmental and economic effects of the drug.

Over the last two years, the group has been studying crowd-sourced data gathered by another organization, meant to create material to educate the public and policymakers on pot, which is set to be legalized in the summer of 2018.

Working around restrictive regulations

Restrictive federal regulations requiring laboratories to be under heavy security when conducting research directly on the cannabis plant prevented Langara’s team of researchers from obtaining marijuana for their studies.

Instead, the group turned to a commercial laboratory, whose name could not be disclosed for legal reasons, to obtain data gathered from cannabis products sold by local dispensaries.

Filling a knowledge gap

Kelly Sveinson, chemist and coordinator of research for the Langara Cannabis Research Group said the group hoped to fill a knowledge gap around the effects of cannabis on humans and society, so that regulations like the ones restricting his research group could be based on evidence, rather than politics.

“We’re hoping that policymakers will look at the results and [they will] help inform good, strong, social policy based on science,” Sveinson said.

Chemist and coordinator of research for the Langara Cannabis Research Group, Kelly Sveinson shows data used in the groups study. Desirée Garcia photo
Researchers commended

John Russell, chair of the Langara research ethics board, applauded the research group for completing their studies despite the regulatory obstacles they faced.

“Cannabis is illegal, the possession of it is illegal…so I think our researchers here should be commended here for the efforts they’re taking to try to shed some more light on the use of this substance,” Russell said.

Dr. M-J Milloy, a research scientist at the British Columbia Centre on Substance Use, said he supports regulations governing the use of cannabis for research, but hopes legalization will bring an easing of restrictions on possession for research purposes.

“[Cannabis] certainly has harms and risks, but we don’t think it should be regulated in such a manner that makes it onerous to be able to conduct scientific research,” Milloy said.

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