Yale University recently announced plans to open a new research that will focus on studying how cannabis impacts mental health and neurodevelopment. Improved mental health is seen by cannabis users as one of the major medical benefits of marijuana.
Yale officials made the announcement not long after legal recreational marijuana sales began in Connecticut, where Yale is located. The new center is part of the Yale School of Medicine.
The Yale Center for the Science of Cannabis and Cannabinoids will be led by Dr. Deepak Cyril D’Souza, who is an Albert E. Kent Professor of Psychiatry and a “leading expert on the pharmacology of cannabinoids,” according to a news release from the university.
Center Leader Opposed Past Cannabis Legislation
Some in Connecticut may recognize D’Souza as an expert who spoke in opposition to a legalization bill under consideration in 2019 by Connecticut lawmakers. The bill, House Bill 7371, was one of three legalization bills filed in 2019 (two in the state Senate, one in the House). None of the three made it to the floor for a vote.
D’Souza offered “testimony opposed to House Bill 7371” before the House General Law Committee. According to documents published online by the state, he voiced concerns about youth use of cannabis, the impact of cannabis on driving, and the impact of cannabis on mental health.
However, in an interview in January 2023 a few weeks before announcement of the research center, D’Souza said he has studied cannabis for 25 years and is not opposed to legalization but rather is concerned about cannabis marketing that might attract young people.
“It’s easy for adolescents to get their hands on tobacco and alcohol and why do we think that’s not going to be the case with cannabis,” he said.
Some studies done in states where cannabis is already legal have found no association between legalized cannabis and increased teen use of marijuana. A University of Minnesota study also found no connection between legal cannabis and an increase in fatal car accidents,
New Center Funded By Department of Psychiatry
Funding for the new center will come initially from the elite university’s Department of Psychiatry. “Funding will support pilot studies toward the development of a P50-type center grant application focused on cannabis, cannabinoids, neurodevelopment, and mental health,” according to the news release.
The release noted that founding of the center comes at a time of “rapid commercialization of cannabis” across the United States. In 2022, Maryland and Missouri joined the list of states (21 in all) with legal adult use marijuana after voters approved the change on the November ballot.
Connecticut joined those states through action by state legislators in 2021. Residents in the state may possess up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis in public and have an additional five ounces in a secure container in their home.
Yale said the center will “put Yale at the forefront of studies into its effects on human health.”