Today, the University of Minnesota School of Public Health (SPH) is announcing the launch of the new Cannabis Research Center (CRC). The center will assess the impact of adult-use cannabis legalization and help inform future cannabis policies and practices across the state of Minnesota.
Cannabis is a psychoactive drug that has physical and mental effects, but information on the impacts of adult-use cannabis legalization is limited and inconsistent, due largely to the lack of formalized evaluations, robust data sets and strong research programs. CRC will fill this gap in Minnesota’s public health infrastructure by collaborating with organizations, agencies and people in the state on research to advance 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. CRC will also explore how adult-use cannabis legalization will affect health equity and public safety.
Governor Tim Walz signed H. F. 100 into law in May, legalizing adult-use cannabis in Minnesota. To create a strong research infrastructure from the start to learn how cannabis is used and how it affects different Minnesota populations and communities, legislators included in the bill a $2.5M annual appropriation from the cannabis sales tax to establish CRC.
SPH Professor Traci Toomey, a public health policy expert with a particular focus in substance use control policies, will serve as the CRC’s inaugural director.
“We’re extremely grateful to the Minnesota Legislature and Governor Walz for their leadership and support in creating Minnesota’s first-ever research center focused on cannabis here at the School of Public Health,” says Toomey. “I am excited for the opportunity to lead the Cannabis Research Center and, alongside my colleagues at the School of Public Health, to build collaborations to conduct innovative research on the health effects of adult-use cannabis legalization on people and communities across the state, including prevention and treatment of substance use disorders, equity issues, education, and decriminalization.”
CRC has already established several core principles that will guide its work, including:
- Leading the scientific community in cannabis research.
- Upholding antiracist principles by prioritizing questions related to equity and incorporating antiracist practices into collaborations, research questions and methods, interpretations, and communications.
- Maximizing health benefits and minimizing health problems related to cannabis by addressing timely questions now and into the future.
- Being a trusted source of information about cannabis research for individuals, communities, and organizations.
SPH Interim Dean Timothy Beebe said that the first priorities for CRC include identifying key staff and faculty members with related expertise, establishing an executive committee to help guide center strategy, and identifying partners across the state to help advance CRC’s work.
“We will work collaboratively with state and local agencies and community-based organizations to explore and identify the initial research priorities related to cannabis use in Minnesota,” Beebe says. “I am confident that, under Dr. Toomey’s leadership, CRC will provide the data and evidence our policymakers need to make informed decisions about cannabis to prevent inequity and adverse health impacts throughout Minnesota.
“As Minnesota’s only school of public health, we are honored to uphold our state’s considerable reputation as a leader in health innovation and research. We’re thankful to state leaders for giving us this opportunity to help ensure the best possible health outcomes for all Minnesotans.”