Areas of Focus

Cannabis and Health Outcomes


Despite the increasing availability and use of cannabis, many questions remain about its potential risks and benefits. We are conducting several studies by leveraging “big data” to efficiently recruit several prospective cohorts to examine the impact of cannabis use on health. Using text processing methods, we have identified cannabis users and non-users and have recruited a national cohort of Veterans Affairs patients with existing heart disease that we will follow over time to determine how cannabis use effects medication adherence, blood pressure control and cardiovascular events. Using similar methods, we are launching a study of older patients to evaluate the impact of cannabis use on hospitalization, falls and injury among older adults. Finally, we are recruiting patients with varying levels of exposure to tobacco and cannabis for detailed lung function studies. These studies will provide information for consumers, healthcare providers, and policy makers as they make choices about marijuana use, recommendations, and laws.


The Effects of Cannabis on Overdose and Mortality among Patients on Chronic Opioid Therapy.

Several ecologic analyses have demonstrated that rates of opioid related mortality have dropped in states with recreational legalization of cannabis. However, it is unclear how cannabis effects the individual health of opioid users. We have designed a study using national VA data to examine how cannabis use among patients on chronic opioid therapy effects mortality.


Public Perceptions on the Health Effects of Cannabis


We have benchmarked opinions of a national sample of 16280 US adults on both the risks and benefits of marijuana use in 2017. Overall the public has a favorable impression on the health effects of marijuana and holds beliefs on marijuana that are not currently supported by the evidence. We are continuing this work by examining how the traditional media and social media covers the evidence associated with the potential benefits and harms of cannabis use. These studies can help inform educational campaigns that will accurately communicate the health effects associated with cannabis use to the public.


Cannabis and Health Evidence Review Project


We have four active evidence base review projects examining the health effects of marijuana including the effects of marijuana use on cardiovascular risk factors and outcomes, the hemodynamic effects of marijuana use, the pulmonary effects of marijuana use, and the association of marijuana use with cancer. Thus far we have determined that cannabis use is associated with tachycardia and that suggests smoking marijuana is associated with respiratory symptoms including cough and sputum production. Regular updates to the evidence base surrounding cannabis use is necessary to ensure accurate information is communicated to the public.