The McGill Research Centre for Cannabis has a multi-disciplinary research program comprised of three integrated, translational axes that work in concert to enhance our understanding of cannabis and its effects on the environment, the individual and society at large.
(1) Agriculture and Plant Science: Research efforts include novel models of production, processing and handling as well as crop management; included here is expertise for methods for the detection of phytochemicals (cannabinoids). Within this component are projects/expertise aimed at determining how various factors such as the growing environment (temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide, light, nutrient control) affect plant growth, the response of the cannabis plant to stress (microbial, salt) as well as how post-handling conditions (drying, grinding, extraction) affect secondary compound production of cannabis. Therefore, one goal of this axis is to control the environment and processing to produce a higher value product for safe medicinal applications.
(2) Biomedical: This axis fosters fundamental, translational and clinical research on cannabis. Fundamental and translational projects include disciplines such as immunology, molecular pharmacology, systems biology, toxicology, biochemistry, cell biology, etc to address gaps in our understanding about how cannabis affects biological systems. The RI-MUHC will house a preclinical platform consisting of a system for pharmacological screening of cannabis-based products/chemicals and state-of-the-art cannabis inhalation systems for rodents; together these will serve as the preclinical pipeline to quickly and accurately test cannabis and cannabis-derived products in relevant disease models. Research conducted at the preclinical level will thus seamlessly transition to clinical studies using the Centre for Innovative Medicine (CIM) in areas that encompass respiratory medicine, cancer, genetics, chronic disease management, oncology, supportive care, pain, etc. The four strategic priority areas identified for this axis includes cannabis-based immune therapy, product safety, customized delivery methods and precision medicine approaches.
(3) Socioeconomics and Law: This research axis focuses on a broad range of financial, legal, policy, regulatory and educational matters emerging from legalization. Federalism research will address provincial, territorial and federal legislative capacity to determine the scope of legalization and co-operation and competition in the negotiation shared jurisdiction over health matters. Research on economic, social and racial justice will examine health and social implications of the new regime for a number of key populations, including people who use drugs, racialized groups, youth, and those seeking access to cannabis for medicinal reasons. Specific topics of research in this regard include risk management and stakeholders’ accountability, the legal debate around amnesties for those convicted under the previous regimes, best practices for impaired driving assessment, patterns of continued penalization through the application of emerging provincial and municipal by-laws, situating legalization within broader policy frameworks such as harm reduction and abstinence-focused approaches, and access to care and social determinants of health. Other matters studied will include the implications Canada’s legalization regime in relation to international treaties governing psychotropic drugs; approaches to communication, education and advertising in relation to adult and youth populations at the population and clinical levels; additional regulatory matters include environmental regulation and horticulture standards.