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University of Colorado Will Use a "CannaVan" to Conduct Medical Cannabis Research

The van is a novel way of getting around federal laws that make it difficult to conduct cannabis research. Buckle up!

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Medical cannabis is one of the fastest-growing fields in modern medicine, but conducting scientific research on the plant's medicinal powers is a challenging task, thanks to federal laws that make it difficult for researchers to acquire quality weed for testing purposes. Researchers at the University of Colorado-Boulder, however, have found a novel way to get around this problem by creating the CannaVan, a mobile laboratory housed in a cargo van.

Rather than struggling to source their own government-approved medical cannabis and administer it in a hospital setting, the team will travel to subjects' residences, ask them to buy their own cannabis, and have them use it in the comfort of their own homes while conducting research.

"Instead of being able to bring the cannabis to the lab, we bring the lab to the people," Cinnamon Bidwell, assistant Professor at CU-Boulder's Institute of Cognitive Science and lead investigator of the study, said to CBS Denver.

The CannaVan is being used to conduct a three-year study on the impact of high-potency weed on individuals' motor control and cognitive functions. To complete this research, Bidwell and her will team drive to meet each test subject at his or her home. While sober, the subjects will undergo a series of cognitive tests and have their blood drawn. Then, the subjects are asked to go back into their home and use a cannabis product of their choice. Once blazed, the subjects must submit to two more rounds of testing in the van.

Bidwell told CBS Denver that she hopes the study will shed some light on how high-potency cannabis intoxication could affect an individual's driving ability. "We are looking at particularly high potency products in terms of motor control and cognitive functions that underlie driving ability," she explained. "How impaired do people get and does potency matter?"

Cannabis-impaired driving is a major concern for canna-legal states, and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has given CU-Boulder a $839,500 grant to research the issue. Researchers from CU-Boulder are also conducting another study under the same grant, where test subjects are asked to take a battery of driving-related tests after using their own dab rigs.