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Budding interest in cannabis research

Ongoing studies by Psychology faculty member and student examine impact of marijuana legalization.

By Cory Phare

April 27, 2017

It’s no mystery that Colorado has some of the most permissive laws on cannabis use anywhere. The effects of this voter decision on individuals and groups, however, is much cloudier.

That’s the rationale behind the work of senior psychology major Deborah Daugherty and Katherine G. Hill, assistant professor of psychology. Together, they’ve launched two surveys to research a largely unstudied topic.

One survey on personality and cannabis use currently has more than 400 responses, and is collecting more through late summer.

Daugherty and Hill point to the conception of cannabis evolving from an illicit substance to a more socially acceptable one as an area rife for psychological research.

“When more of the population stops viewing cannabis consumption as a big deal or dangerous, that attracts different kinds of people,” said Daugherty. “That gets into different personality factors; we’re interested in what user motivations are.”

Another factor she mentioned is that THC levels – the primary psychoactive compound found in cannabis – has exponentially increased, from levels of 3-5 percent in the 1980s to as high as 45 percent and above in modern strains.

“If something is more potent, that increases the likelihood of addiction generally with substance use,” said Hill. “We’re living in a different world now, and just don’t know the usage effects yet.”

Daugherty and Hill are also conducting another survey exploring the impacts legalization has had on the Colorado community, looking at legalization and policy impacts on different ethnic populations.

The two plan to submit their findings for publication and conference presentations after they’ve analyzed their results.

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