Using A Lab On Wheels To Study Weed From Dispensaries

Episode 781,   May 28, 08:00 PM

A van outfitted as a mobile laboratory helps scientists study how legal cannabis products affect users—without breaking the law.

Cannabis is legal in some form or another in over half of US states. But federally, it’s illegal and has no accepted medical use. However, the Biden administration is moving to reclassify cannabis as a less dangerous drug under the Controlled Substances Act.

Studying strictly controlled drugs like cannabis is a major challenge for scientists, because they have to meet specific registration and sourcing requirements. And researchers can’t give commercially available cannabis from dispensaries to study participants, or bring it onto campus at all. But questions around the health impacts of these widely available products continue to mount.

A team of scientists at the University of Colorado Boulder is driving around these federal roadblocks by bringing a mobile lab—nicknamed the CannaVan—to people, so they can consume weed in their own homes and then come outside for some routine tests.

SciFri producers Emma Gometz and Rasha Aridi visited the CannaVan last year and join Ira to unpack how this research gets done, what the CannaVan has taught us about weed, and how reclassifying cannabis might affect research.

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