This past weekend we ran an experiment to determine if we could inspire the community to educate themselves about cannabis by granting them access to just a small sample of the amazing cannabis science and innovation available in 2021. We called this experiment our inaugural Cannabis Science Fair, and the results are in!
Our hypothesis was that highly passionate and active cannabis enthusiasts would show up with curiosity and questions for the experts we had on hand. That prediction was confirmed, but we were also blown away by the volume of interest that students, researchers, doctors, and canna-curious members of the public showed in attending and absorbing some very complex information about cannabis.
Attendees who joined us were able to speak directly with researchers pursuing a diverse array of cannabis-related investigations. We filled the Boston University BUild Lab with projects ranging from public-health-focused studies on topics like cannabis use during breastfeeding or lead concentrations in e-cigarette components to research meant to inform approaches to cannabis use in other sectors like assessing attitudes towards medicinal cannabis use among the medical community or exploring the potential to use tears as a non-invasive means for detecting the presence of THC metabolites.
Additional projects on display gave attendees a window into cannabis testing advancements like targeting biological contaminants by species and analyzing plant tissue to improve crop health and yield. Lastly, there were projects that used science to combat mischaracterizations of cannabis and provide consumers guidance for assessing products in the legal market.
On the innovation side, the crowd was treated to demonstrations of devices used for measuring the molecular contents of cannabis as well as one that extracts cannabis vapor for targeted testing. Plus, decarboxylation experts from Ardent Cannabis were on-hand to demonstrate and give away one of their patented in-home decarb devices.
Several keynote speakers also addressed the audience throughout the afternoon to offer attendees unique perspectives on the current status and future outlook of cannabis science and research. The first from MCR Labs founder and CEO Michael Kahn highlighted how integral cannabis testing has been to establishing a safe and successful industry in Massachusetts and beyond. His presentation also demonstrated the need for more transparency in data sharing to help consumers gain trust and take part in shaping a very new but heavily regulated cannabis industry.
Next, Dr. Marion McNabb, founder of the Cannabis Center of Excellence, provided a thorough overview of cannabis research initiatives and the challenges that researchers still face. She expanded on the importance of “citizen scientists” and their role in continuing to advance our understanding of cannabis through social science and pushes for expanding research opportunities. By inviting the crowd to take part in the CCoE’s iCount initiative, she transformed onlookers into active participants in the cannabis science journey.
For the finale of the event, Harvard Medical School and Mass. General Hospital primary care physician and outspoken medical cannabis expert Dr. Peter Grinspoon made a lighthearted but poignant argument for why the medical community must become more open minded about cannabis. He used personal anecdotes and examples of flawed studies to show how past stigmas continue to harm patients and how expanding cannabis research can encourage physicians to educate themselves on the true potential for incorporating cannabis into their practice.
Dr. Grinspoon’s experience and particular expertise on the subject perfectly concluded the event by equipping attendees with a sense that progress is accelerating with regards to cannabis science and knowledge. The combined messages and sentiments of the other speakers as well as the wealth of information provided by the exhibitors ensured that attendees gained perspective and tools to continue the discussion in their own circles.
With plans to make this a yearly institution in a region renowned for its biomedical research, we were delighted with the results of our first Cannabis Science Fair experiment. Those interested to learn more or take part in future science fairs should stay tuned and are welcome to reach out to our team any time.