One of the country’s most prestigious academic institutions will be home to a new research center dedicated to studying cannabis. 

The Yale School of Medicine announced the creation this week of “a research center to study the acute and chronic effects of cannabis and cannabinoids on neurodevelopment and mental health.”

Called the “Yale Center for the Science of Cannabis and Cannabinoids,” the center “will be led by Deepak Cyril D’Souza, MD, Albert E. Kent Professor of Psychiatry and a leading expert on the pharmacology of cannabinoids.”

The announcement comes only weeks after Connecticut, where the elite Ivy League university is located, launched legal recreational cannabis sales

After the regulated marijuana market went live, D’Souza sounded the alarm on cannabis use among young people. 

“It’s easy for adolescents to get their hands on tobacco and alcohol and why do we think that’s not going to be the case with cannabis,” D’Souza told local news station WTNH.

“Exposure to cannabis … in adolescents has been associated with the development of some serious psychiatric disorders including schizophrenia and other psychosis,” D’Souza added, as quoted by the station.

The center, which was announced by the university on Monday, will be funded initially by “the Department of Psychiatry, with support from the dean’s office.”

“Funding will support pilot studies toward the development of a P50-type center grant application…” the university said in the announcement, noting that those interested in applying for funding must contact D’Souza.

According to a press release about the new cannabis research center, university leaders “said in their announcement that the launch of the center comes at a time of rapid commercialization of cannabis across the United States,” and that the new “center will use a multipronged and multidisciplinary approach to study the acute and chronic effects of cannabis and cannabinoids.” 

Legal recreational pot sales kicked off in Connecticut last month. According to WTNH, the first week of sales brought in more than $2 million

The state legalized marijuana in 2021, when Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont, who was elected to another term in last year’s election, signed a bill into law.

“That’s why I introduced a bill and worked hard with our partners in the legislature and other stakeholders to create a comprehensive framework for a securely regulated market that prioritizes public health, public safety, social justice, and equity. It will help eliminate the dangerous unregulated market and support a new, growing sector of our economy which will create jobs,” Lamont said in a signing statement at the time. “By allowing adults to possess cannabis, regulating its sale and content, training police officers in the latest techniques of detecting and preventing impaired driving, and expunging the criminal records of people with certain cannabis crimes, we’re not only effectively modernizing our laws and addressing inequities, we’re keeping Connecticut economically competitive with our neighboring states.” 

Lamont announced in December that, as part of the state’s new cannabis law, about 44,000 individuals would have their prior marijuana convictions expunged at the beginning of 2023.

“On January 1, thousands of people in Connecticut will have low-level cannabis convictions automatically erased due to the cannabis legalization bill we enacted last year,” Lamont said in a statement at the time. “Especially as Connecticut employers seek to fill hundreds of thousands of job openings, an old conviction for low-level cannabis possession should not hold someone back from pursuing their career, housing, professional, and educational aspirations.”

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