Cambridge, MA– Marijuana was legalized in Massachusetts in 2016, but medical researchers still have a lot of unanswered questions about the positive and negative health impacts of smoking or ingesting cannabis. Today, Harvard and MIT announced in a joint press release that investor Charles R. Broderick, an alumnus of both schools, has donated $9 million toward research about how cannabis affects behavior and the brain. Broderick says that he hopes his investment will “fill the research void that currently exists in the science of cannabis.” This is the largest ever donation to support independent research on cannabinoids.
Regarding the goals of the research endowment, Broderick said, “I want to destigmatize the conversation around cannabis — and, in part, that means providing facts to the medical community, as well as the general public. Then we’re all working from the same information. We need to replace rhetoric with research.”
MIT was granted $4.5 million over the next three years in support of research by scientists at the McGovern and Picower institutes. Two of these researchers will be separately studying the connection between marijuana and schizophrenia. For example, are there potential therapeutic applications of the drug for adults with schizophrenia? Does adolescent use of cannabis make youths more vulnerable to developing schizophrenia? Scientists agree that more data is needed on the subject.
Other researchers at MIT will look at the brain’s cannabinoid receptor, CB1, and its effects on mood disorders and addiction, as well as the impact of cannabis on working memory and attention.
Harvard will also receive $4.5 million to establish the Charles R. Broderick Phytocannabinoid Research Initiative at Harvard Medical School, which will encourage cross-disciplinary research across the Harvard Medical community toward the study of the effects of cannabinoids on brain function and health.
A 2017 report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine called for research to create a “comprehensive evidence base” detailing the potential long-term and short-term benefits and harms of cannabis use.
The CDC (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)’s current position on the health impacts of marijuana cites studies on the potential long-term impact of marijuana on brain impairment and says that 1 in 10 users will become addicted. Depending on the outcomes of this latest marijuana research at Harvard and MIT, we could see changes to these CDC recommendations in the coming years.