MAY 03, 2019 8:59 AM PDT

Harvard and MIT Receive Largest Donation Yet to Study Cannabis

WRITTEN BY: Amy Loriaux

A recent donation of $9 million from marijuana investor Bob Broderick to Harvard and MIT is thought to be the biggest donation to support cannabis research in the states. Mr. Broderick has made tens of millions of dollars by investing in the legal marijuana industry in Canada and is now looking to capitalize on the development of the cannabis market just now "blooming" in America. According to WBUR, who interviewed Mr. Broderick, the donation was made in order to close the gap on marijuana research in American institutions.

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Mr. Broderick told WBUR, a news station out of Boston, in reference to Harvard and MIT, "I saw an opportunity to take a kind of a leadership position in getting these two great cultural institutions involved in the discussion of cannabis in the country,". The problem, as Mr. Broderick sees it, is the lack of cannabis research in the American scientific community. This newsletter has previously described in further detail this particular problem. Donors like Mr. Broderick are concerned about the state of cannabis research and hope that the influx of money can remedy the situation.

Perhaps surprisingly, the federal government is getting into the act as well. Recently the National Institutes of Health (NIH) began supporting more than $140 million of research on cannabis and cannabinoids. They have even initiated a consortium to fund projects examining the therapeutic potential of cannabinoids to treat pain conditions. 

However, more research does not necessarily mean that the results will always be "pro-marijuana". For instance, Dr. Myriam Heiman of MIT's Picower Institute for Learning and Memory has found a potentially harmful effect of cannabis on patients with schizophrenia. One potential theory behind the etiology of schizophrenia is it arises from a decrease in neural connections. Marijuana has been found to reduce these connections even further, suggesting at least one population that may want to stay away from pot. 

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Nevertheless, as with any young science, there also exists evidence suggesting that marijuana might be beneficial for schizophrenics. This was found by Dr. John Gabrieli and colleagues, who, by the way, are from MIT and will receive some of that Broderick money for continued studies. To reconcile these disparate findings, Dr. Gabrieli told WBUR that there may be a "sweet spot [mix of cannabis compounds in the right proportions] that's optimally helpful for patients with schizophrenia to gain maximal abilities in their cognition."  

The answer to this question, and many others, can now be addressed thanks to generous private donations like the one from Mr. Broderick. In what is probably the most important aspect of this donation (and donations to come) is to help other scientists break the taboo that still lingers around cannabis research. As he points out, it is still risky "to pivot.. career[s] and study the effects of cannabis." Investors like Mr. Broderick are trying to encourage young and future scientists to be able to shed this perception and produce more discoveries about marijuana and its potential therapeutic use. 

Sources:, The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research, LabRoots,


About the Author
Doctorate (PhD)
I currently work at a small CRO involved in clinical trial management.
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