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"The Medical and Legal Challenges of Cannabis Legalization"

Professor Daniele Piomelli, University of California, Irvine
Feb 27, 2019 from 12:00 PM to 01:00 PM (America/Los_Angeles / UTC-800)
1130 K Street, Room LL3
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After a century of criminalization, the United States are experiencing a rapid shift in their social and legal attitudes toward cannabis. As of March 2018, eight states (including California) and the District of Columbia have legalized the plant and its products for both medical and adult recreational use, while twenty-one others have decriminalized its use as medicine. These sweeping transformations are taking place in a context shaped by multiple contrasting factors. 

— As social and legal perspectives toward cannabis continue to change, its prevalence in the United States and abroad is not showing signs of receding, especially in vulnerable populations such as pregnant mothers and elderly adults.

— Legal changes have predictably fueled the emergence of a new cannabis industry, which in the United States is expected to grow at a compound annual rate of 26% per year to reach $21.6 billion in 2021.

— Despite increased pressure generated by the legal diffusion of cannabis, our understanding of its genetic and chemical diversity, public health risks and medical benefits is still critically incomplete.

— Similarly, the legal landscape around the production, sale and use of cannabis – in fundamental areas such as finances, business structure, regulatory oversight, ethics, anti-trust and more – remains largely undeveloped.

Despite various forms of legalization at the state level, including under California state law, the Drug Enforcement Agency maintains a Schedule I classification for cannabis, which defines it as a drug with substantial abuse potential and no accepted medical application. As a result, the use, possession, distribution, and cultivation of cannabis remain illegal under federal law. Research is allowed, but a set of labyrinthine regulations thwarts its progress. Daniele Piomelli, director of UCI’s Center for the Study of Cannabis, will give an overview of this complex scenario and will suggest a potential way forward for research. 

Daniele Piomelli studied pharmacology and neuroscience with James H. Schwartz and Eric Piomelli PhotoKandel at Columbia University (1983-1988), and with Paul Greengard at the Rockefeller University (1988-1990). In 2000, two of his mentors (Kandel and Greengard) were awarded the Nobel Prize for their contributions to physiology and medicine. After working at the INSERM in Paris (France) and at the Neurosciences Institute in San Diego, with Nobel Laureate Gerald Edelman, Daniele joined the University of California, Irvine, where he is now Louise Turner Arnold Chair in Neurosciences and Professor of Anatomy and Neurobiology, Pharmacology and Biological Chemistry. Daniele is an author of >400 peer-reviewed articles in journals such as Nature, Science, Nature Medicine, PNAS and Nature Neuroscience, three full-length books, and 34 patents. He co-founded the department of drug discovery and development (D3) at the Italian Institute of Technology in Genoa (Italy), which he directed from 2007 to 2016, and three biopharmaceutical start-ups based on discoveries made in his lab. He is director of UCI’s Center for the Study of Cannabis and Editor-in-Chief of Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, the only peer-reviewed journal entirely dedicated to the study of cannabis, its derivatives, and their endogenous counterparts in the human body.



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