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The Future of Cannabis Research Is a Cargo Van in Colorado

CU Boulder

The University of Colorado Boulder has a new marijuana research lab, and it’s not your traditional facility. You don’t walk into a large, fancy building; instead, you slide open the door on a retrofitted cargo van.

The CannaVan was built to help the university conduct research on the effects of marijuana use on humans, according to WIRED. To get real results, researchers need to be able to use what’s available in real markets, and the van is the best solution to easily getting around and conducting experiments.

Cinnamon Bidwell, a neurobiologist heading the CannaVan research team, said, “The idea is: If we can’t bring real-world cannabis into the lab, let’s bring the lab to the people.”

The CannaVan program will work by meeting with potential participants and assigning them a specific marijuana product to use. Once assignments are in place, participants are responsible for purchasing their assigned products. The CannaVan then delivers participants back to their homes where baseline blood draws are taken and then the marijuana products are ingested. Mental and physical state evaluations also take place. After using the products, participants return to the CannaVan for another blood draw, an interview, and memory and motor control evaluations.

The current task of the CannaVan is to look into potential risks of using high-potency concentrates. They’re also looking into marijuana as a viable treatment option for those with chronic pain and anxiety.

“Basically, we’re looking at whether people can have pain relief without walking around feeling stoned all the time,” said Bidwell. “As Colorado citizens, we can purchase and use these products. But as researchers, we can’t legally bring them into our lab and directly test their effects, or directly analyze them. We’ve worked very closely with CU Boulder administration, our legal team, research compliance officers – the list goes on – to see everything is above board.”

This research will be the first time that CU Boulder is able to use its CannaVan to conduct observational investigations regarding therapeutic benefit and behavioral aspects of medical marijuana use.

Photo: Patrick Campbell/CU