CHICAGO — This month, the City of Chicago, the State of Illinois, and the Discovery Partners Institute (DPI) announced the launch of the Cannabis Research Institute. This first-of-its-kind center in the Midwest will further boost the state's global standing as a science epicenter.

The CRI will be a collaborative effort by the City and the state situated within DPI, which is connected to the University of Illinois System. The goal is to provide a comprehensive body of research and data to advance public understanding of the scientific and socio-economic impacts of marijuana consumption and production.

The partnership will let the new institute leverage DPI's personnel, offices, and resources in the City. With a planned rollout of the CRI in the upcoming months of 2023, DPI has begun searching for a director to lead the program.

According to Chicago Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot, It's a fantastic chance to not only promote the City as the hub for highly-demanded marijuana studies but also to expand the breadth of knowledge and science needed to shape policy.

The City of Chicago is ideally located for marijuana research, with its world-class academic and medical institutions and a deep bench of innovators. The CRI will be a premier research institute that promotes equity and a desire for an evidence-based, research-driven cannabis retail marketplace.

The Governor, JB Pritzker, expressed his passion for the project by saying, "He's thrilled to announce the launching of the Cannabis Research Institute — a nationwide first, producing actionable studies to guide data-driven policies and advance public knowledge on the impacts of marijuana. I can think of no better location than the great state of Illinois for this enterprise. We are the center of the Midwest and at the forefront of marijuana legalization — all while dismantling the ill effects of the War on Drugs on our minority populations."

Despite overwhelming public support for medical and adult-use marijuana legalization, cannabis remains illegal at the federal level. The federal government continues to uphold restrictive regulations and policies on research into the benefits, health, or harm of marijuana products.

As a result, studies on the health impact of marijuana have been limited in the United States, depriving patients, healthcare professionals, consumers, and policymakers of more evidence they need to make sound decisions regarding its consumption.

The Cannabis Research Institute will cultivate collaborations and partnerships with diverse collaborators, including officials from the state and the City of Chicago.

This will ensure that cannabis research will inform policy and regulation to safeguard public health, stimulate scientific, medical, and technological advancement, and address societal concerns about the impacts of new policies and markets.

To achieve this goal, Discovery Partners Institute will convene and steer a research team that brings together research institutions, government agencies, communities, and businesses,

Future studies will be broad and cover topics on medicinal and health effects, social equity impacts, and agricultural crop management practices. Example topics include:

  • societal and community implications of marijuana legalization,
  • demographic gap analysis of medical marijuana programs
  • effectiveness of cannabis and various cannabinoids on medical conditions, such as reducing inflammation and relieving anxiety
  • public health impacts of legalizing recreational cannabis use
  • plant varietal improvement in controlled environmental conditions.

The CRI will also prioritize equity, diversity, and much-needed inclusion by creating an entry point into the marijuana industry for people of color through:

  • research opportunities (research jobs and research ideation),
  • shared best practices for industry participants (both cultivation and distribution),
  • jobs and internships, partnering with historically Black colleges and universities for research opportunities,
  • supporting training and research through the Vocational Cannabis Program (managed by the City Colleges of Chicago and other Illinois Community Colleges)
  • and hosting local education sessions in underserved communities.

The Cannabis Research Institute collaborates closely with the Cannabis Regulatory Oversight Officer, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and other regulatory agencies.