Colorado Gives Another $2.35 Million to Marijuana Research Studies

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment just announced another round of grants — totaling $2.35 million — that will fund seven studies researching the health and safety impacts of marijuana. About $1.7 million will go to projects studying how marijuana affects driving ability, which has been a hot topic around town and inspired the creation of a green lab for law enforcement training.

This is the second round of awards from marijuana-related tax funds authorized by the Colorado Legislature. Each awardee went through a review and scoring process; the seven were chosen from 58 initial applications.

The biggest chunk of the money will go to a three-year study on driving impairment in occasional marijuana users versus impairment in heavy marijuana users. Michael Kosnett, associate clinical professor of clinical pharmacology and toxicology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, is partnering with Ashley Brooks-Russell, assistant professor of community and behavioral health at the Colorado School of Public Health, to conduct the study; they've been awarded an $843,500 grant from the state.

Marijuana's effect on driving has always been hard to calculate, primarily because there isn't a roadside test for it. Still, if you're suspected of driving high, you can be charged with a DUI.

A survey conducted by the Colorado Department of Transportation last year found "55 percent of marijuana users drove high an average of seven days per month."

The legal limit for THC is currently 5 nanograms per milliliter of blood (though Westword reported years ago that some marijuana users can be stone-cold sober and still have that level of THC).

Another three-year study, conducted by L. Cinnamon Bidwell, associate professor at the Institute of Cognitive Science at the University of Colorado, received $839,500 to study the "Acute Effects of Dabbing on Marijuana Intoxication, Driving Impairment, and Cognitive Functioning."

Dabbing uses concentrated cannabis, smoked from a heated surface. The concentrate has more THC, so it gets you higher, and does it faster, than standard smoking.

The two three-year studies focused on driving impairment are full research grants that the state will fund for up to $300,000 per year for up to three years. The other five are pilot grants that the state will fund up to $100,000 per year for one or two years. Here's how they break down:

Three of the studies are health-related: one on how long marijuana remains in breast milk, one on how marijuana might affect health in older people, and one on the cardiovascular risks of marijuana.

The state also funded a study on the adverse effects of edibles and an analysis of data before and after recreational marijuana was implemented in Colorado.

“This research will be invaluable in Colorado and across the country,” Dr. Larry Wolk, department executive director and chief medical officer, said in a statement announcing the grants. “The findings will inform our public education efforts and give people additional information they need to make decisions about marijuana use.”