Two University of Colorado Boulder professors received $5.5 million to research how the legalization of cannabis for recreational use impacts human behavior.
By Haley Gray | October 31, 2017
The University of Colorado Boulder announced last week that the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has awarded two CU professors $5.5 million to study possible behavioral changes in the years since recreational use of cannabis was legalized in Colorado. According to CU, the study is the first and only of its kind in the nation.
Behavioral geneticist John Hewitt and psychiatry professor Christian Hopfer, MD, will examine self-reported cannabis use as well as behavior and mood changes in more than 1,000 sets of twins each in Colorado and Minnesota ages 23 to 29. While Colorado adults have had legal access to recreational cannabis for more than three years, Minnesota prohibits recreational use of the drug. (As such, the out-of-state participants will serve as the study’s control group.)
“We’d like to know about how the change in the legalization [in Colorado] is changing people’s behavior,” Hewitt says. He hopes to determine whether subjects have increased their cannabis use and whether they’ve turned to other substances (like alcohol) more or less frequently since legalization. He’ll also monitor changes in cannabis users’ moods, employment status, family functioning, and educational completion in the years since legalization. Given the many variables at work, the study will cast a wide net and will examine behavioral trends if they emerge.
Hewitt expects to begin recruiting sets of twins—some of whom he has studied in previous research—in January. He and Hopfer will collect data over five years, but expect to begin publishing preliminary findings within a year or two. Some of the subjects will be identical twins and others fraternal. Hewitt says studying both groups will allow the researchers to determine