Pubdate: Tue, 04 Dec 2012
Source: Reporter, The (Vacaville, CA)
Copyright: 2012 The Reporter


Last week's news reports that Humboldt State University had developed 
an institute devoted to marijuana research instantly drew plenty of jokes.

"We already have a college research institute devoted to marijuana," 
cracked late-night host Jimmy Kimmel. "It's called college."

Even wags at The Reporter got into it, suggesting a name for the 
center that would accommodate an appropriate acronym: Humboldt 
Institute for Ganja Hypotheses (HIGH).

If nothing else, the idea of putting a marijuana research center in 
Humboldt County -- a Northern California coastal community that is to 
marijuana what the Appalachian Mountains were to moonshine during 
Prohibition -- seems absurdly appropriate.

Which is exactly what the academics at Humboldt State are saying.

"If anyone is going to have a marijuana institute, it really should 
be Humboldt State," said economics professor Erick Eschker, who is 
co-chairing the Humboldt Institute for Interdisciplinary Marijuana 
Research with sociology professor Josh Meisel.

The 11 academics taking part in the institute have fertile topics for 
research right in their own back yard, such as marijuana 
cultivation's impacts on wildlife, the use of pesticides and 
fertilizers in growing marijuana or the economic and public health 
impacts of marijuana production on rural communities. Another 
proposed study will look at the chemical and medicinal properties of the drug.

It's the kind of information that voters and elected officials need 
to make rational decisions about marijuana.

That, in fact, is how the idea for the institute came about. Two 
years ago, when California voters were asked to legalize marijuana, 
the public discussion that resulted showed "there were a lot more 
questions than there were answers," Professor Meisel told The 
Times-Standard of Eureka, one of The Reporter's sister publications.

California voters rejected Proposition 19, but with Colorado and 
Washington state voters approving similar measures last month, it's 
certain to come up again here. When it does, it would be helpful to 
have reliable information from a legitimate research institute that 
is looking at the situation in California as well as pulling in data 
from Colorado and Washington's experience.

Aside from the issue of personal or recreational use, this country 
also needs more and better research on medical marijuana. If it is 
truly an effective medicine, then the federal government needs to 
reclassify it. If the anecdotal evidence about its effectiveness 
isn't supported, then patients ought to be told.

As much as we might want to chuckle about a marijuana research 
institute at Humboldt State, we need more evidence-based information 
about the topic. Kudos to the researchers there for attempting to provide it.
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