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UA colleges sponsor university's first ever cannabis symposium

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Jesus Barrera | The Daily Wildcat

One of the 400 different chemical compounds found in cannabis has the potential to slow bone loss from cancer.

The Inaugural Interdisciplinary Cannabis Symposium will be one of the University of Arizona’s first ever events centered around evidence-based research about medical cannabis. The IICS will be held on Wednesday, Sept. 25 at the DuVal Auditorium at the College of Medicine.

The symposium will feature seven speakers from universities around the world presenting on different topics relating to cannabis and health. It is sponsored by UA's College of Science, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, College of Medicine and the BIO5 Institute.

Raphael Gruener, a retired professor emeritus at the College of Medicine, is the organizer of the IICS and said that it is important for the UA to keep up with studies surrounding cannabis.

“It’s a responsibility, in my opinion, of the UA to discuss cannabis,” Gruener said. “So when the prohibitions [on cannabis] are lifted, we at the UA will be ready.”

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Kitt Farrell-Poe, Ph.D., the department head of Agricultural-Biosystems Engineering, is the liaison for the IICS from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. 

“Having evidence-based and research-based information is really important for anything that might be controversial,” Farrell-Poe said. “I think it’s our obligation to impart the knowledge of these kinds of topics.” 

Gruener said that cannabis users, including UA students, should be informed of the effects of cannabis.

“Whether they own up to it or not, students use marijuana and have been for several generations of students,” Gruener said. “And they need to know what is going on, why things are going on and so on.” 

According to Farrell-Poe, more research needs to be done on cannabis since there is still so much that is not known about its effects. 

“There is not a lot of research that you can go back to for cannabis,” Farrell-Poe said. “We don’t know how much, what dosage, how does it affect different races, how it affects men, women or children … There is not much research, because in the U.S., you are not allowed to research it.”

The idea for the symposium first started out as only a single seminar based around medical cannabis, but even then, Gruener faced hurdles in trying to speak about medical cannabis in a UA sponsored event. When Gruener first pitched the seminar idea to the Controlled Environment Agriculture Center, it was not accepted. 

Gruener said he sent information regarding the seminar idea to UA President Dr. Robert C. Robbins next. 

“I very quickly got a response from Robbins, which was very cryptic and open to interpretation,” Gruener said. 

Gruener ended up contacting the deans of the College of Science, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the College of Medicine, and got favorable replies from them to go ahead with his idea of a seminar on medical cannabis.

“What followed was a lot of back and forth and discussions with UA lawyers, with vice presidents and so on and so forth,” Gruener said. “I had to get everybody to approve the concept and approve whatever I was going to do.”

According to Gruener, the UA is careful dealing with anything related to cannabis, as it must follow strict rules set internally and by both the state and federal governments. 

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One of Gruener’s major missions in holding the symposium is to get research on cannabis started at the UA. Many research institutions, including the University of California system, are already involved in cannabis research and teaching.

According to Gruener, there are still some negative feelings about cannabis among some members of the UA community. 

“Even here among the UA faculty, there are people who at the very least are not interested in learning about cannabis,” Gruener said, “which is shocking to me, as we are an academic institution and learning is the middle name of the UA.”

For more information on the symposium and a schedule, visit the IICS webpage.


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