U of M research center for cannabis launches Thursday with funding from state

The University of Minnesota launched a new Cannabis Research Center (CRC) through its School of Public Health on Thursday.

A news release from the university announced the new research center, which it says will aim to examine the impact of adult-use cannabis legalization in order to help inform future cannabis policies and practices.

Governor Tim Walz signed a bill in May that legalized marijuana in Minnesota, and afterward, legislators allocated a $2.5 million annual appropriation from the cannabis sales tax to establish the CRC.

University officials say Traci Toomey, a professor with the school of public health, will be its inaugural director. Among the center’s first priorities are creating a committee to guide its strategy, identify partners in Minnesota to help advance its work and also find other staff and faculty members with related expertise.

CRC officials hope to find drug information through cannabis research by collaborating with organizations to understand the health effects of cannabis and how it may interact with other drugs, such as opioids or alcohol. The news release added officials also aim to study how cannabis may affect health equity and public safety.

“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,” said School of Public Health Professor Traci Toomey. “I am excited for the opportunity to lead the Cannabis Research Center and, alongside my colleagues at the School of Public Health, 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.”

The news release states the CRC has identified multiple core principles which 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.

“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,” said School of Public Health Interim Dean Timothy Beebe. “I am confident that, under Dr. Toomey’s leadership, the 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,” Beebe continued, “We’re thankful to state leaders for giving us this opportunity to help ensure the best possible health outcomes for all Minnesotans.”