Conducting research to support the development of evidence-based cannabis programs, policies, and regulations

Cannabis laws are changing rapidly, disrupting and expanding the information needs of those tasked with developing evidence-based cannabis programs, policies, and regulations. RTI combines technical and content-area expertise with social and political insights to conduct cannabis research to meet those needs.

Research to Support Policy and Regulation

State officials tasked with regulating cannabis as a legal consumer product or as a form of medical treatment are under pressure to make high stakes, high profile decisions in an emerging industry. Federal and state policy makers considering potential regulatory pathways for cannabis and cannabis-derived products need data related to these products. Over the past decade, RTI has developed a wide-ranging body of unbiased research to support those decisions, including studies on:

  • product packaging, including consumer awareness and comprehension of warning labels and consumption advice
  • consumer perceptions of cannabis-related risk, such as the risk associated with driving under the influence of cannabis
  • the influence of advertising on consumption, including openness to use among youth
  • gaps in state-level laws pertaining to cannabis-related expungement
  • barriers to transition to the regulated market, such as the relative influence of price and the density of legal outlets
  • chemical analysis of cannabis products, including discrepancies in labelled and actual amount of CBD; and potential chemical conversion of cannabis in various environments
  • the chemical stability of cannabis products in various storage contexts
  • rapid synthesis of cannabinoids and metabolite standards including radiosynthesis
  • pharmacology of cannabinoids, such as the cannabis constituents associated with substance use disorder

Research to Support Public Health

Public health officials in states that legalize cannabis for adult use are often tasked with educating the public about the new law, as well as promoting public health and safety. RTI has decades of experience conducting research for the development and evaluation of state and federal public education campaigns. RTI understands that, in the context of cannabis, it is critical to tailor messages for specific audiences, including:

  • public education about new cannabis laws, with an emphasis on educating consumers about behaviors that can still lead to arrest
  • prevention messages and education programs for youth
  • safe consumption and safe storage messages for adults, including parents and tourists
  • guidance for consumers who are pregnant or breastfeeding

Research to Support Equity

Increasingly, states that are legalizing cannabis for adult use are developing cannabis policy with an emphasis on equity. Public health officials, regulators, and legislators are recognizing that Black individuals in the United States have been arrested at three times the rate of white individuals for possession of cannabis, despite reporting similar rates of use. Growing awareness of racial disparities in arrest rates—and the negative health and social repercussions of those arrests for individuals, families, and communities—have played a substantial role in shifting public perception about cannabis legalization. RTI has a deep understanding of equity provisions in cannabis, and can provide research to help regulators:

  • assess the relative potential influence of competing equity provisions
  • navigate the tensions that have undermined equity provisions in other states
  • communicate effectively with the public and stakeholders about equity principles
  • evaluate the effects of equity provisions on communities most harmed by past enforcement of marijuana laws
  • identify key characteristics of a comprehensive expungement law that would provide a clean slate to individuals arrested or incarcerated for use or possession of cannabis

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