Chicago-based pot studies center aims to lead on research and policy

The Cannabis Research Institute, run by the city, state and Discovery Partners Institute, will examine social equity, medicinal and health effects of marijuana.

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The Cannabis Research Institute, slated to open next year, will provide policymakers with research and data on pot.

Sun-Times file photo

A new institute that seeks to be the leading science center for cannabis research and help shape policy surrounding the industry will call Chicago home.

The Cannabis Research Institute will analyze social equity, medicinal and health effects and agricultural crop management practices among other topics, according to a statement from the Discovery Partners Institute.

The institute is a joint effort between the state, city and Discovery Partners Institute, which is part of the University of Illinois system, and is scheduled to be rolled out in the next few months, organizers said, adding that it has begun searching for an executive director.

“This is a tremendous opportunity to not only promote Chicago as the center for highly-demanded cannabis research but expand the breadth of knowledge and science needed to shape policy,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said. 

”Our city is the perfect location, as we’re home to an impressive hub of innovation and world-class research universities and institutions. Leveraging and coordinating our city’s resources to create a top-tier cannabis research center will make waves in this new industry and set the precedent on cannabis research nationally.”

Other topics of research will include societal and community impacts of cannabis legalization, demographic gap analysis of medical cannabis programs, effectiveness of cannabis and cannabinoids on medical conditions, and plant varietal improvement in controlled conditions, the Discovery Partners Institute said. 

“I can think of no better place than Illinois for this endeavor. We are the heart of the Midwest and at the very forefront of cannabis legalization — all while dismantling the long-lasting effects of the War on Drugs on our communities,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker said in the statement. 

Officials with the Discovery Partners Institute said the institute is crucial because although there is “overwhelming” public support for medicinal and recreational cannabis legalization, the drug remains illegal at the federal level and policies on its research are restrictive.

This has led to limited data, the Discovery Partners Institute said, depriving policy makers, patients, health care professionals and consumers of information they need to make decisions surrounding its use.

The institute will seek to prioritize diversity and inclusion through research opportunities, jobs and internships, and will partner with historically Black colleges and universities. It will also support training with the Illinois Vocational Cannabis Program, which is run in part by the City Colleges of Chicago, and host local education sessions in underserved neighborhoods.

“We now have years of experience building research teams across disciplines and across institutions,” said Bill Jackson, executive director of the Discovery Partners Institute. “We’re excited to forge new territory and partnerships, conducting research that will make our city safer and healthier — and our society more equitable.”

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