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Researchers always searching for cannabis study subjects

David Sloan, multiple sclerosis patient and author of the memoir “One Day at a Time,” exhales smoke from medical cannabis concentrate given to him with help from his caregiver at Sloan’s home in Highlands Ranch, Colo., in August 2015. (Associated Press)
David Sloan, multiple sclerosis patient and author of the memoir “One Day at a Time,” exhales smoke from medical cannabis concentrate given to him with help from his caregiver at Sloan’s home in Highlands Ranch, Colo., in August 2015. (Associated Press)
By Tracy Damon EVERCANNABIS Correspondent

Bet you never thought you could use marijuana and get paid for it. But if you are a regular weed user, being a participant in a cannabis study could be the best side hustle ever.

“I am always doing studies and always looking for participants,” said Dr. Carrie Cuttler, Ph.D., assistant professor in the department of psychology at Washington State University.

With the legalization of recreational marijuana spreading around the country (Arizona, Montana, New Jersey and South Dakota all voted to legalize this past November alone), there are more cannabis studies being conducted on a regular basis.

Universities, the medical industry and government agencies are all doing their part, looking at everything from the physical and mental effects of pot to levels of knowledge and social attitudes about it.

There are two major colleges right in our own backyard conducting cannabis research – the University of Washington’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute (ADAI) and Washington State University’s (WSU) Alcohol and Drug Abuse Research Program.

“I always need participants,” said WSU’s Cuttler. “We advertise predominantly on Facebook and at cannabis dispensaries. We put flyers in dispensaries and local retail stores in Pullman, but that’s rarer now with COVID. We were also using Craigslist but people were trying to scam us.”

The topic of each study tends to dictate what kind of people Cuttler and her team are seeking but she says, in general, there aren’t many pre-qualifications.

“Typically we’re just looking for healthy adults; people who are over 21 who are physically and mentally healthy,” she said. “We do want people who exclusively use cannabis, not other drugs.”

Some researchers may even want you if you don’t use marijuana.

“Always; I’m always looking for non-users,” Cuttler said. “We’re usually looking for pretty regular users and complete non-users.”

Non-users are needed for control groups and are a hard demographic to find. Older people are too. Cuttler says the majority of people who sign up to participate in studies are college students.

Another group Cuttler would like to encourage to participate are people outside of Washington.

“We can use people from any state where recreational marijuana is legal,” she said.

Often, she and WSU will make it worth your time. The school reimburses participants for their participation with Amazon gift cards; usually about $50 per two hours of study time.

“We don’t pay cash because we don’t want it to appear like we’re buying participants’ cannabis,” Cuttler said.

Most of the studies only involve two-to-four hours of time, which is not a big-time commitment. They are also being conducted via Zoom due to COVID-19.

Because marijuana is still illegal at the federal level, and considered a Schedule I drug, participant’s identifications are kept completely confidential and protected with encrypted computers and password-protected files.

Outside of those two Washington schools, you can also participate in cannabis studies on a larger scale. Nationally, there are dozens of studies underway, as scientists strive to learn more about pot and its impact on users.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) maintains a directory of all past and ongoing studies, both nationwide and some international, on all topics, including marijuana.

A search of the database using the word “cannabis” turned up 201 studies worldwide that are currently recruiting volunteers. The search parameters can also be changed to view studies coming up that will be recruiting volunteers in the near future.

All the studies in the directory list criteria for eligibility, as well as factors that will disqualify applicants. The studies run the gamut from testing the effects of marijuana on certain medical conditions or diseases, like multiple sclerosis and HIV, to how it helps or hinders people with post-traumatic stress syndrome. Others are more general and open to healthy people within certain age ranges or specific to other demographics.

If you use this site to find a study to participate in, keep in mind that a study’s inclusion in this database does not mean it has been evaluated by relevant U.S. agencies.

Another legal disclaimer: it’s always a good idea to check with your health care provider before signing up as a study volunteer, to discuss potential risks and benefits, if you will be using cannabis for the actual study.

Tracy Damon is a Spokane-based freelancer who has been writing professionally for 20 years. She has been covering i502 issues since recreational cannabis became legal in Washington.
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