Under a law passed in December that legalized marijuana, Uruguay is set to become a hub for research on all aspects of the plant.
Scientists at the University of the Republic, Uruguay’s largest and most renowned university, plan to research the benefits and harms of cannabis use once final regulations are released in April, local media reports.
The goal is to study everything surrounding marijuana consumption from all biological, chemical and medical aspects, says Nelson Bracesco, a professor at the Faculty of Medicine.
“We have a historic opportunity permitted by the law,” adds biologist Burix Mechoso.
Bracesco says decades of prohibition have resulted in few studies being conducted on the human level.
In the U.S., the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is the only legal source of marijuana for researchers, and many report difficulty gaining access to it.
One of the first studies planned is how marijuana affects sleep. Uruguayan researchers hope to identify which ingredients in cannabis influence sleep quality, and their precise effects and applications, such as treating insomnia.
“There are uses and effects attributed to cannabis that interest us for analysis,” says sleep scientist Atilio Falconi.
Research on strains is also being planned. Geneticists hope to identify the different types of cannabis that exist in the country in order to create a national database.“We have a historic opportunity permitted by the law”Bracesco says the research will contribute unbiased information to the debate surrounding marijuana, and will remain free of influence from political interests or the private sector.
So far, Bracesco’s team has not been in contact with foreign researchers. But the scientist believes international collaboration will inevitably occur once studies are underway.
Last week, July Calzada, Secretary of the country’s National Drug Board, confirmed that a regulatory system for recreational marijuana would be finalized by April.
However, he said rules for medical marijuana would be delayed for a few months because the subject is of “greater complexity.”