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Cannabis Research Institute to Open in Chicago

Right on the heels of the first piece of cannabis reform legislation in US history earlier this month, officials announced on December 15th, that a brand new cannabis research center would be launched in Chicago to conduct ongoing research into marijuana and its accompanying effects.

Marijuana And The Great Miseducation

Pioneering studies on the world’s most popular recreational psychoactive will look to shed light on its impact on health benefits and risks, together with addressing ignorance around crop production and labor, with a keen focus on marijuana policy advocacy.

With users everywhere breathing a sigh of relief as legalization beckons and appears closer than ever, this solemn joint effort by state and city will look to address the rife miseducation on cannabis and cannabis use among the general public; the great feat to destigmatize weed.

Marijuana And The Great Miseducation

To Be Or Not To Be (Impartial)

Recent reports by the Chicago Tribune indicate that a number of reputable institutions, such as Harvard University, MIT, and UCLA, had all accepted funding from cannabis investors to conduct further studies on cannabis production and consumption—a conflict of interest if ever there was. 

It’s natural to assume that given the current climate surrounding cannabis use, investors would jump at the opportunity to destigmatize marijuana use to engorge interest in the industry and, by extension, line their own pockets.

The research center, to be overseen by the Discovery Partners Institute of the University of Illinois, will, however, look to do things a little differently, according to Executive Director Bill Jackson

Unlike their esteemed counterparts, the Illinois Institute won’t be accepting any handouts from private cannabis investors with vested interests in their own bank accounts and will err on the side of ethicality, only accepting funding through federal, state, and local grants.

Although there has been a positive movement in the decriminalization of weed, as reported in a previous blog, marijuana remains illegal under federal law in the US, and this means that the institute will have to work closely with the US Drug Enforcement Administration in order to conduct its research. 

The Cannabis Conundrum

On the decision to conduct cannabis research in Illinois, Gov. J.B. Pritzker cited the Prairie State being home to four of the biggest cannabis companies in the nation, making it an ideal location, boasting one of the largest marijuana markets.

“Being able to do research, which the (National Institutes of Health) hasn’t done much of, as you know, being able to foster new innovations for the industry, all of that should happen in the city of Chicago and in the state of Illinois,” the governor said. “And so having a research institute just makes all the sense in the world, and the industry itself believes that.”

Jackson also said that some efforts would be focused on advocacy contesting marijuana’s designation as a Schedule 1 substance with no medical value and a high potential for abuse, alongside President Biden’s recent announcement. The Washington Post, however, believes overall legalization will be a tedious process fraught with tons of back and forth between the public and the powers that be.

The research will also be particularly important in highlighting the plight of the migrant and other workers who keep the cannabis industry afloat, often laid bare to exploitation and squalid working conditions. Most recently, the Los Angeles Times released a damning report on the work conditions of cannabis plant labor in California and found that workers were subject to abuse, wage theft and hazardous working conditions, costing some their lives—a growing trend across state lines.

Chicago mayor, Lori Lightfoot, said that the institute would work to promote the city’s position on industry and expand the conversation and science necessary to shape public policy. Meanwhile, in the run-up to the opening in the next few months, the institute has set its sights on finding an executive director to assume the position when the time comes.

While misconceptions continue to flow within and without the weed fraternity, one thing’s for certain: the ball is positively rolling. With the fight for legalization gaining unbelievable traction in months past, decriminalization seems a little closer than previously imagined.

The Cannabis Conundrum

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