Cannabis Awareness Week – New University

by: Ryan Mikeala Nguyen

UCI’s Center for the Study of Cannabis hosted a Cannabis Awareness Week from Oct. 1 to Oct. 4 in conjunction with the UCI School of Medicine where they held educational talks, a “Reefer Madness (1936)” movie screening and set up an “Understanding Cannabis” booth on Ring Road.

The research center, located in the Gillespie Neuroscience Research Facility, was created in 2016 by Dr. Daniele Piomelli, Director of the UCI Center for the Study of Cannabis. 

The center’s main goal is to educate students and the public on the misconceptions and stigma of cannabis. They also strive for factual based research to study the way cannabis plants can be effectively utilized. The main research point that the center has been focusing on is the “Impact of Cannabinoids Across the Lifespan (ICAL).” 

“The ultimate goal would be just having an evidence-based empirical approach to cannabis, whatever that may be. It should be based on data and science not on stigma and on perceptions. So, this research will hopefully shed a lot of clarity on where cannabis is applicable medicinally, which populations should avoid cannabis—whatever scientific knowledge we accumulate hopefully should reflect in sensible policy,” UCI medical student Mahan Naeim stated. 

Professor of Psychological Brain Sciences Andrea Hohmann, Ph.D. presented a talk about this research point called “Accelerating Solutions to the Opioid Epidemic by Targeting the Endocannabinoid System” on Oct. 4 at the UCI School of Medicine during Cannabis Awareness Week. 

Presently in California, adults 21 or older can use, carry and grow cannabis. Purchasing medicinal cannabis without a valid physician’s recommendation or a county-issued medical marijuana ID card has been legal since Jan. 1, 2018. Because of the increasing prevalence of cannabis, the center conducts research on the effects of cannabis in Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, pain relief, metabolism and dosage.

The center’s “Understanding Cannabis” booth was set up near Humanities Hall and had a VR tour of the research center. Fliers from the California Cannabis Health Information Initiative were given to further educate on cannabis penalties as well.

The center plans to implement the research they find to help explore drug policy. Musician Gabe Rosales, an advocate for criminal justice and reform policy, hopes to provide the truth and facts of cannabis rather than the mainstream view of cannabis and its usage.  

“The thing is that there are so many cultural norms that people just accept the immediate truth, the pseudoscience that’s involved with it, as opposed to actual evidence-based practices and research that shows what exactly is happening with cannabis,” Rosales said. “For me, getting the evidence and the research to back the policy changes and to have a more sustainable atmosphere. Not only will [the center’s research] help address the stigma, we’ll have actual medical facts.” 

The center and their representatives want to reduce the stigma of cannabis and instead focus on the researchable aspects of cannabis—both good benefits and bad effects.  

“We try to help students understand the research being done at UCI,”  Cannabis Educator and Outreach Development Intern Jared Agins said. ”In today’s society, everybody thinks cannabis is cool or has a health [benefit], like it’s good for you and that’s a misconception. So, we want to try to give students good information from an educational approach while at the same time have them understand that there may be some benefits.” 

For more information about the UCI Center for the Study of Cannabis, visit http://cannabis.uci.edu/