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Ensuring that cannabis research is of uniformly high quality will require the development of guidelines for data collection, standards for research design and reporting, standardized terminology, and a minimum dataset for clinical and epidemiological studies.
The committee has put forth a substantial number of research conclusions on the health effects of cannabis or cannabinoids.
Based on their research conclusions, the members of the committee formulated four specific recommendations to address research gaps, improve research quality, improve surveillance capacity, and address research barriers.
This is a pivotal time in the world of cannabis policy and research.
Shifting public sentiment, conflicting and impeded scientific research, and legislative battles have fueled the debate about what, if any, harms or benefits can be attributed to the use of cannabis or its derivatives.
Potential efforts should include, but need not be limited to: resources necessary to conduct cannabis research.
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Unless these barriers are directly addressed, or creative solutions are developed to circumvent the challenges they pose, a comprehensive national cannabis research agenda will remain an elusive goal.
Multiple stakeholders can contribute to these efforts.
CDC’s Center for Surveillance, Epidemiology and Laboratory Services, the Questionnaire Design Research Laboratory at the National Center for Health Statistics, and the Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) can aid in the design and evaluation of survey questions that accurately capture key data points relating to cannabis use.
A universal, standardized terminology would help to create standard units for describing cannabis use.
Because much of the existing epidemiological research on cannabis use fails to distinguish between cannabis that is smoked and cannabis that is administered orally, topically, or via other routes, health effects associated with cannabis use may be conflated with those associated with smoking per se.