Earlier this year, colleges all over Florida applied to receive funding to lead a new Consortium for Medical Marijuana Clinical Outcomes Research. UF came out on top.
The university announced last month it was selected by the State University System of Florida Board of Governors to take the lead on the project, which will bring other universities and researchers across the state together to explore the potential impacts of medical marijuana on public health, said Dr. Robert Cook, a UF professor of epidemiology.
UF will receive $1.5 million per year from the state to fund the research project, Cook said.
The project is still in the early stages of planning, he said. Pending approval from the consortium’s board. Dr. Almut Winterstein, a professor and chair of pharmaceutical outcomes and policy at the UF College of Pharmacy, will be the consortium’s director. Cook will be the director of the clinical research core within the consortium.
The goal of the consortium will be to explore the effects of medical marijuana products currently dispensed by the state. It will also examine possible harmful effects of medical marijuana to make sure it doesn’t pose a risk to the public, Cook said.
The consortium will compile a database of research relating to medical marijuana from different institutions across the state, he said.
“The consortium doesn't fund a specific research project,” Cook said. “Its purpose is to provide a research infrastructure that can help us identify and answer the critical questions related to medical marijuana.”
About $600,000 from funding will be used by UF to provide grants to other state institutions doing similar research and encourage collaboration, Cook said.
UF already has a variety of research programs related to cannabis, including the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences’ Industrial Hemp Pilot Project and a study on cannabis receptors taking place in the College of Pharmacy.
Since it is still in the early stages of development, Cook said he isn’t sure how UF students will be able to get involved in the consortium’s research efforts. Cook said students may be involved with monthly meetings of people interested in marijuana research or with the creation of an internship program. However, such involvement will be at least a year down the road.
“I hope we can come up with some ways to support student involvement,” Cook said. “We are certainly open to ideas on how to engage students.”
Christelle Lteif, a 28-year-old UF pharmaceutical sciences graduate student, said she thinks the consortium is a good thing for UF because it will help expand the research the university is already doing.
“As a pharmacist, I think it’s good to know the benefits and clinical outcomes of something,” Lteif said. “So if we can do more research on [medical marijuana] to know if it’s useful or not, that’s a good thing.”