Researchers at McMaster University and St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton are receiving more than $1.75 million in support of their research projects related to cannabis.

The three researchers leading these projects – Iris Balodis, Jeremy Hirota and James MacKillop – are all members of the Michael G. DeGroote Centre for Medicinal Cannabis Research.

“Funding such as this is essential for producing new evidence to understand cannabis use in Canada,” said James MacKillop, director of the Michael G. DeGroote Centre for Medicinal Cannabis Research (CMCR).

“This October will mark five years post-legalization of recreational cannabis and it has been more than two decades since medical cannabis legalization, but there are still so many questions about how cannabis impacts the people who use it recreationally, medically, or for both reasons. These questions can only be answered with confidence through rigorous scientific approaches, which is exactly what our CMCR researchers are doing.”

The three studies receiving grant funding are:

The Neuroeconomics of Cannabis Use Disorder ($799,425)
Nominated principal applicant: Iris Balodis, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences
The study will measure how the brain recognises and potentially overvalues cannabis, focusing on people deemed to be clinically addicted to cannabis compared to a control group. The study will also measure brain activity patterns during decision-making and assess potential cannabis valuation differences between sexes. These findings will provide insight into cannabis addiction motivation and associated behavioural changes.

The Impact of Cannabis Smoke on Respiratory Tract Viral Infections ($855,000)
Nominated principal applicant: Jeremy Hirota, Department of Medicine
This research will address the risks associated with smoking cannabis. Approximately 90 per cent of people who consume cannabis smoke it. This study will assess how cannabis smoke inhalation affects the body’s immune response to influenza and SARS-CoV-2, which are the dominant respiratory viral infections causing death globally.

Leveraging an Existing Longitudinal Observational Cohort to Understand the Impacts of Cannabis Legalization and the COVID-19 Pandemic on Alcohol and Cannabis Use in Young Adults ($100,000 Bridge Funding)
Nominated principal applicant: James MacKillop, Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences
This research will examine how cannabis legalization and the COVID-19 pandemic have affected cannabis use and misuse in emerging adults. The funding will specifically focus on a cohort of high-risk emerging adults to understand the impacts of both cannabis legalization and the COVID-19 pandemic on alcohol and cannabis use. The cohort, which was recruited in 2017 at age 21, will be monitored until age 27, providing a unique ‘time-capsule’ of the impacts of these major societal events on emerging adults.

The Michael G. DeGroote Centre for Medicinal Cannabis Research is a partnership between McMaster University, St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, the Peter Boris Centre for Addictions Research, and the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine. The centre promotes an evidence-based approach to understanding both benefits and risks associated with cannabis use in all its forms.

Upcoming events for the centre include a half-day conference on cannabis and women’s health and a two-day conference on the impact of cannabis legalization in Canada.

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