British Columbia

New UBC pot professor to research potential of cannabis in treating opioid addiction

The University of British Columbia is getting a new professor of cannabis science, thanks to a $2.5 million gift from Canopy Growth and $500,000 from the B.C. government.

The $3 million professorship is funded, in large part, by cannabis producer Canopy Growth

M-J Milloy was named inaugural professor of cannabis science at UBC on Friday. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

The University of British Columbia is getting a new pot professor, thanks to a $2.5 million gift from a major cannabis producer and $500,000 from the B.C. government.

M-J Milloy has been named the inaugural Canopy Growth Professor of Cannabis Science, a position that will carry the branding of the main benefactor but will remain arms-length and independent from the company, according to officials at the university.

It's a research position intended to lead clinical trials into the potential of using cannabis to help people getting treatment for opioid use disorder.

"I am thrilled. It is sort of a dream that hasn't sunk in yet," said Milloy on Friday.

"To have the resources and the security and the freedom to investigate this idea — and hopefully produce evidence to help address the overdose crisis — it's why I became a scientist," he said.

Milloy's office will remain at the B.C. Centre on Substance Use, where he already works as a substance use epidemiologist. His previous research has focused on the connection between illicit drug use and HIV.

'A renaissance in cannabis science'

According to Milloy, the type of work he plans to carry out has been made immeasurably easier by the legalization of recreational cannabis.

"Legalization has really touched off, I think, what will be known as a renaissance in cannabis science," he said, adding that ending prohibition has helped make it possible for corporations like Canopy Growth — but also the government — to support the research.

For Canopy's director of patient education and advocacy, Hilary Black, the death of a close friend to an opioid overdose inspired the contribution.

"This project was actually sparked out of the death of my best friend's daughter," said Black. "Right now, this health crisis is screaming for leadership and for investment. And so we decided collectively to step up."

Hilary Black is director of patient education and advocacy at Canopy Growth — a cannabis producer that donated $2.5 million to research the potential of treating opioid use disorder with cannabis. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

"With the dawning of legalization, we have much more freedom to actually do the research and Canopy Growth has the economic capacity to make significant contributions like this to Canada," she said. "That's exactly what should be happening with the resources from the recreational cannabis industry."

According to Milloy, if the opioid overdose crises abates, the role of the cannabis science professor can shift to researching how pot can help other substance use disorders, including alcohol and tobacco.

Follow Rafferty Baker on Twitter: @raffertybaker


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