Academia is an important component of any mature science and the recent conference at Colorado State University in Pueblo demonstrated quite clearly that cannabis has come of age.
Sponsored by the university’s Institute of Cannabis Research, the two-day conference was held last weekend and boasted 75 sessions and more than 100 speakers. The 545 attendees came from 21 states and 10 countries. Attendees had a taste of Colorado’s winter when 6” of snow fell the night before the first sessions, but that didn’t slow anything down. ICR Interim Director Jen Mullen promised the show would go on and indeed it did.
The event was a tour de force for the 18-month-old institute whose mission “is to advance knowledge and understanding in, and support and promote through education and research responsible development of applications for, cannabis-related natural and derived products.”
The conference sub-theme was “From Margins to the Mainstream” and the diversity of the topics reflected that focus. Attendees had a veritable smorgasbord of sessions with the usual highlight on the endogenous cannabinoid system, but also topics on worker safety in cannabis production, environmental concerns and cannabis tourism, to name just a few. The multi-disciplinary aspect of the conference made it all the more enjoyable as casual conversations over coffee (with plenty of snacks and fruits available) could become mini learning sessions on topics with which one had no previous knowledge.
Perhaps most impressive components of the event were the conference’s three keynote speakers: Drs. Carl Hart, Alexandros Makriyannis and Raphael Mechoulam. The presence of the octogenarian Mechoulam was a true coup for the conference. Many conference goers were thrilled to discover that Mechoulam was actually present, not appearing via Skype as he has been doing in recent years. The “father of cannabis research” received a warm welcome from the packed auditorium in Hoag Hall as he gave the inaugural Mechoulam Lecture, which is set to annually commemorate the ground breaking discoveries that have made contemporary cannabis science possible. Mechoulam, the consummate scientist, gave a 40-minute talk in which he reviewed his own accomplishments while pointedly noting the areas that need further attention.
“It was like he was giving us a road map of where to go next,” one attendee said.
After his speech the Israeli scientist agreed to greet anyone who wished to shake his hand or take a selfie. The response was overwhelming as dozens of people stood in line, some for an hour, to greet the scientist.
Mechoulam’s embrace of the CSU Institute likely stems from his strong belief in the importance of academia in completing the necessary research on cannabis.
“In order to do work of major importance one must collaborate,” he said when asked about his thoughts on the ICR during a press conference. “[If] there is an institute it is a good step forward.”
The lineup of speakers at the conference certainly reflected the value of the academic team. The majority of speakers had academic affiliations and even a cursory count revealed representation from a dozen universities and colleges. Chemists, physicians, botanists, epidemiologists, social scientists and more were highlighted in the program. This fact gives credibility to the boasting of CSU’s president who called the meeting “the first international, multidisciplinary cannabis research conference at a regional, comprehensive university in the USA.”
The State of Colorado deserves a lot of credit for funding this Institute and CSU-Pueblo should be proud of itself for taking it on. If you couldn’t attend the conference you can probably get a good sense of the presentations from the conference proceedings, which will be published later this year. And you can also mark your calendars now for next year’s conference: April 27-29, 2018. Next time please hold the snow.
TELL US, would you like to attend an event that focused on scientific developments in cannabis?