Lexington, Kentucky --The University of Kentucky is now home to a new center that will advance research on the medical use of cannabis. The UK Cannabis Center will perform research on the health benefits of cannabis while also assessing its risks and effectiveness for treating certain medical conditions.

The new department will reside at the University of Medicine's Center on Drug and Alcohol Research (CDAR). The center will expand cannabis research in the UK and develop clinical cannabis trials.

Brought to fruition by Kentucky HB 604, the center intends to accelerate cannabis research relevant to Kentuckians' health and well-being. The new bill appropriates the center $2 million over the next two years.

Earlier this year, the Kentucky senate failed to make headway on HB 136, a measure for legalizing medical cannabis in the state, after passing through the House.

As Kentucky mulls over legalizing medical marijuana, research in the new department will aim to guide and educate medical providers, legislators, and citizens on the risks and benefits of cannabis and cannabinoids.

According to Shanna Babalonis, Ph.D., director of the UK Cannabis Center, one of the legislature's goals is to have us explore the conditions for which medical cannabis might be helpful -which includes the most effective dosages and best consumption methods for each ailment.

Dr. Babalonis has secured nearly $3.5 million in health grants to study opioid-cannabis interactions, the effects of cannabis on patients with opioid use disorder, and the impact of marijuana on driving performance.

"This new center will allow us to expand our clinical research, particularly focusing on medical conditions improved by medical marijuana," Babalonis said.

Along with clinical studies, the new center will also focus on preclinical research on advanced and innovative applications.

HB-604 also requires the University to apply to the US Drug Enforcement Administration for a license to cultivate cannabis. When approved, the center will conduct agricultural research on optimal growing conditions for cannabis.

University President Eli Capilouto recently appointed a multidisciplinary team of UK faculty to manage the center's research and budget.

The 12-member board's duties include an executive or steering committee working alongside Dr. Babalonis to determine the center's research objectives, make vital financial determinations, and an advisory panel to provide feedback and help guide the center's progress and overall direction.

The committee is working to determine the center's research goals and schedule. The center will also hold an annual symposium to present research findings and invite outside experts to report on cutting-edge, high-impact research.