The top 25 universities and colleges leading cannabis research

Published on May 5, 2022
Collage of female presenting researcher and hands conducting cannabis science

One of the biggest disputes from anti-cannabis proponents is that there is simply not enough research on the subject. The science proves this is simply untrue if we look at the United States’ Pharmacopeia support of cannabis medicine dating all the way back to the 1850s.

Currently, there is a wave of cannabis research that is only continuing to grow. The recent passing of the Medical Marijuana Research Act through the U.S. House Bill is an indicative sign of the monumental paradigm shift for cannabis researchers throughout the country and ultimately the globe.

The importance of cannabis research

Female scientist in a hemp field checking plants

Up-to-date, multidisciplinary studies are more important than ever as our global society seeks to grasp the holistic impact of cannabis science, agriculture, policy, and law into actionable measures that foster an equitable, sustainable cannabis industry.

Cannabis research departments across the U.S.

Here’s a comprehensive list of U.S. colleges and universities leading the way with trailblazing research efforts, arranged in alphabetical order.

Alabama A&M University

College of Agricultural, Life and Natural Sciences (CALNS)
Winfred Thomas Agricultural Research Station

Alabama A&M University (AAMU) is an HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities), an 1890 Land-Grant Institution, and one of five AL universities licensed to grow hemp cannabis and hemp for research purposes.

AAMU’s Winfred Thomas Agricultural Research Station and recently has partnered with Oregon State University and Phylos to plant over 400,000 seeds in Alabama and Tennessee.

Lead researcher: Ernst Cebert, Ph.D., WTARS Manager

Led by: College of Agricultural, Life and Natural Sciences (CALNS)

Alabama State University

ASU Industrial Hemp & Entomology Research Lab

Since 2019, Alabama State University’s Industrial Hemp & Entomology Research Lab has launched dedicated initiatives to research best growing practices for hemp including specialty research on pest management. Graduate students are able to gain firsthand experience with hemp plants cultivated at the university and with local Alabama hemp farmers.

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Lead researcher: Dr. Michelle Samuel-Foo, Director of Specialty Crop Research

Led by: College of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics

University of Alabama

College of Arts and Sciences

As one of a handful of state universities conducting hemp research, The University of Alabama has focused its efforts on researching the cannabinoid content of hemp plants and best practices to breed the most efficacious genetics.

UA has also partnered with The Wemp Co. to conduct research on their 20-acre hemp farm led by Dr. Lukasz M. Ciesla, UA’s assistant professor of biological sciences.

Lead researcher: Dr. Lukasz M. Ciesla

Led by: College of Arts and Sciences

Allan Hancock College

Industrial Hemp Research Program

Allan Hancock College’s Industrial Hemp Research program was introduced by local farmers in the Santa Maria Valley based on the USDA’s requiring them to partner with a research institution.

The goal of the program is to provide these farmers with empirical data on the genetics and sex composition of plants. Led by Dr. Anjali Misra, students are able to apply their research techniques, better access internships, and collaborate with hemp production company, Biologix.

Lead researcher: Dr. Anjali Misra

Led by: Agriculture Department

Auburn University

Production Agriculture Research – E.V. Smith Research Center

Auburn University College of Agriculture’s first hemp research initiative was established in 2021 through the Production Agriculture Research (PAR) program which provides crucial grants funded by the USDA and Alabama Agricultural Experimentation Station. The study analyzes the effects of “​​two variety’s response to differing nitrogen treatments, as well as two varieties at different plant spacing.”

Lead researchers:

Joe Kemble, Department of Horticulture

Katelyn Kesheimer, Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology

Led by: College of Agriculture

California Poly Humboldt

Humboldt Institute for Interdisciplinary Marijuana Research (HiiMR)

The Humboldt Institute for Interdisciplinary Marijuana Research (HiiMR) was established in 2012 at Cal Poly – Humboldt (formerly known as Humboldt State University). The HiiMR specializes in the intersection of public policy, science, and environmental studies within the fields of cannabis research.

Currently, Cal Poly Humboldt has ongoing research projects and publications all listed online.

Lead researcher: Dr. Dominic Corva and Dr. Whitney Ogle, Co-directors

Led by: College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

California State University – Dominguez Hills

South Bay Economics Institute (SBEI)
College of Business Administration and Public Policy (CBAPP)

Lead researcher: Rama Malladi, associate professor of finance at CSUDH

University of California, Berkeley

Berkeley Cannabis Research Center (CRC)

The Cannabis Research Center is the University of California, Berkeley’s consortium of researchers dedicated to furthering studies on the impact of cannabis agriculture on socio-ecological systems. The CRC provides access to its comprehensive catalog of peer-reviewed research and research publications online.

Lead researcher: Eric Biber, CRC co-director

Led by:  Rausser College of Natural Resources

University of California, Davis

Cannabis and Hemp Research Center (CHRC)

University of California, Davis’ Cannabis and Hemp Research Center is one of the California powerhouses for cannabis & hemp research. In 2020, the California Bureau of Cannabis Control awarded UC-Davis five different approvals for over $3 million in research funding to study the intersection of cannabis and public health sciences, agriculture, and medicine among other disciplines.

Most recently, Clever Leaves Holdings Inc. and Biopharmaceutical Research Company have collaborated with UC Davis on a “joint partnership with the intent to study the DNA sequence variation of three Clever Leaves’ cannabis cultivars”.

Lead researcher: Cameron Carter and Li Tian, co-directors of the UC Davis CHRC

Led by: Office of Research

University of California, Irvine

UCI Center for the Study of Cannabis

Focused on the medical, legal, and cultural aspects of cannabis legalization, The UCI Center for the Study of Cannabis is working to provide key insights that improve our understanding of the long-term effects of cannabis use.

UCI’s Impact of Cannabinoids Across the Lifespan (ICAL) study is a prime example of an initiative centered on how cannabis affects the human brain based on when someone starts consuming cannabis.

Lead researcher: Daniele Piomelli, Ph.D., Director, UCI Center for the Study of Cannabis

University of California, Los Angeles

Cannabis Research Initiative (CRI)

UCLA’s Cannabis Research Initiative has been a frontrunner in creating research opportunities that analyze the chemical makeup of cannabis plants and the cannabinoids within them. Led by Dr. Ziva Cooper, UCLA was awarded over $6 million in research grants by the BCC to approve seven different studies.

Lead researcher: Ziva D Cooper, Ph.D., Director

Led by: Jane and Terry Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior

University of California, San Diego

Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research (CMCR)

UC-San Diego’s Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research (CMCR) was established in 2000 making it one of the oldest of its kind. The UC Center for Medicinal Cannabis has successfully been balancing the need for a multidisciplinary approach to science and policy efforts in order to garner a holistic understanding of cannabis’ medical efficacy.

Lead researcher: Igor Grant, M.D, CMCR Director

University of California, San Francisco

Center for Medical Cannabis Research

Through various academic departments, UC-San Francisco conducts highly scientific studies that cover the community, health, and environmental effects of cannabis. UCSF was awarded the largest award of $2 million by the Bureau of Cannabis Control for its study on the “developmental effects of cannabis exposure on the immune, central nervous and peripheral nervous systems”.

Lead researcher: Jeffrey Sall, MD, PhD

Led by: UCSF Department of Anesthesia and Perioperative Care
Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education

University of Connecticut

CAHNR Cannabis Programs

University of Connecticut has numerous cannabis & hemp-based studies through their CAHNR Cannabis Programs which include but are not limited to the Hemp Initiative,Economics of Cannabis, and Molecular Genetics of Cannabis.

To date, UCONN has received more than $1 million in research funding from cannabis industry partners and federal entities.

Lead researcher: Gerald Berkowitz

Led by: College of Agriculture, Health, and Natural Resources

Colorado State University – Pueblo

Institute of Cannabis Research (ICR)

Colorado State University-Pueblo founded the Institute of Cannabis Research in 2016 and is touted as “the nation’s first multi-disciplinary cannabis research center at a regional, comprehensive institution”. CSU-Pueblo hosts monthly webinars on the latest cultivation and research updates.

Lead researcher: Chad A Kinney Ph.D., Director of the ICR

Led by: Department of Chemistry

Cornell University

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences / School of Integrative Plant Science

Cornell CALS (College of Agriculture and Life Sciences) is home to a “long-term breeding program for hemp” due to its status as New York’s only land grant institution. One of the key goals of Cornell’s Hemp Research Program is to discover which varieties of hemp are most compatible with New York’s climate. Take a virtual tour of Cornell Hemp Program’s Geneva, NY plant breeding facilities.

Lead researcher: Larry Smart, Professor, SIPS

Led by: College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Florida A&M University

Medical Marijuana Education and Research Initiative

Florida A&M University has launched its Medical Marijuana Education and Research Initiative (MMERI) which provides a foundational online medical cannabis education course and virtual forums to inform the general public.

As an HBCU, FAMU’s MMERI is centered on equitable impact with the expressed purpose “to educate and inform Florida’s minority communities about medical marijuana and the potential consequence to health and well-being from recreational use”.

Oregon State University

Global Hemp Innovation Center

Composed of over 60 faculty members in 19 different disciplines, Oregon State University’s Global Hemp Innovation Center is one of the largest hemp research centers in the nation. Historically, OSU was “the site of the country’s only hemp research center from the 1880s to the 1930s”.

In August, OSU will be partnering with CSU-Pueblo to host the 2022 Virtual Cannabis Research Conference.

Lead researcher: Jay Noller, Ph.D., Director

Led by: College of Agricultural Sciences

Rowan University

Institute for Cannabis Research, Policy, & Workforce Development (RPWD)

Rowan University’s Institute of Cannabis Research, Policy, & Workforce Development (RPWD) is a newly developed research department designed to educate healthcare professionals, policymakers, and businesses on the effects of cannabis legalization.

Scientific research on cannabis’ medicinal benefits is being conducted through the RPWD’s Center for Cannabinoid Science & Therapeutics at Cooper Medical School. Rowan has two additional cannabis research centers dedicated to workforce development and social sciences.

Lead researcher: James Grinias, Ph.D.

Led by: Center for Cannabinoid Science & Therapeutics, Center for Cannabis Workforce Development Social-Behavioral, Security and Law Enforcement Cannabis Center (SSLC)

Southern University

Southern Institute for Medicinal Plants (SIMP)
Cannabis Compliance, Law & Policy Institute

Southern University has two established cannabis research arms as part of its efforts to provide quality medicine and education in the state of Louisiana. The Southern University Agricultural Research and Extension Center partnered with Ilera Holistic Healthcare, a licensed cannabis operator founded by Howard University’s former Director of S.T.E.M Education, Dr. Chanda Macias, to produce a compliant line of THC products.

The Law Center is dedicated to education and social impact initiatives through its Cannabis Compliance, Law & Policy Institute and partnership with the Cannabis Health Equity Movement (pronounced CHEM).

Lead researcher: Janana Snowden, Ph.D​​.

Led by: Southern University Law Center and Southern University  Agricultural Research and Extension Center

SUNY Morrisville

Four Seasons Organic Farm
Cannabis Research Plot

SUNY Morrisville operates its own Four Seasons Organic Farm that creates opportunities for students in the Speciality Crops & Production Certificate to gain hands-on experience working with hemp. Faculty have been conducting research via SUNY Morrisville’s Cannabis Research Plot where they are studying the sex of cannabis plants.

Lead researcher: Kelly Hennigan, Co-chair of the Animal and Plant Science and Agricultural Business Division

Led by: School of Agriculture, Business & Technology

Thomas Jefferson University

Lambert Center for the Study of Medicinal Cannabis & Hemp

The Lambert Center for the Study of Medicinal Cannabis & Hemp at the Thomas Jefferson University has claims as the “first major health sciences university in the United States to provide a comprehensive academic resource for the medicinal application and business of cannabis and hemp”. The research center was founded by Barry Lambert, owner of Ananda Hemp, one of the leading US hemp producers.

Lead Researcher: Ruth Charbonneau, RN, JD, Associate Director

Type: Thomas Jefferson University – Sidney Kimmel Medical College

Troy University

Center for Materials and Manufacturing Science

Lead researcher: Dr. Govind Menon, Director of TROY’s School of Science and Technology

Led by: School of Science and Technology

University of Vermont

Medical Cannabis Center for Research and Education (MCCRE)

The University of Vermont conducts key research through its Medical Cannabis Center for Research and Education which equips clinicians, dispensary personnel, regulators, students, and professionals with the latest in cannabis education and research.

A major goal for UVM is “dispelling misinformation about the emerging field of cannabis studies with scientifically vetted research findings”. 

Lead researcher: Monique McHenry, Ph.D., MCCRE Director

Led by: The Robert Larner M.D. College of Medicine

William Paterson University

Cannabis Research Institute (CRI)

The Cannabis Research Institute at William Paterson University is a state-of-the-art program with a mission to advise regulators and inform the public on current clinical research and public health policies.

Lead researcher: Rahi Abouk, Ph.D., Director

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Nadir Pearson
Nadir Pearson
Nadir is a dynamic cannabis leader and entrepreneur from the East Coast. He is the founder of SMART (Student Marijuana Alliance for Research & Transparency,) a national collegiate cannabis organization and a co-founder of Hybrid Co. Nadir also serves as a project lead for Cannaclusive.
View Nadir Pearson's articles
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