TULALIP — The Tulalip Tribes opened a cannabis store last year with a high-tech approach to pot.
Their interest goes beyond herbal remedies of the recreational kind.
And in this case, the consumers are rodents, not people.
The two 30-month, $2 million projects at the Stanford University School of Medicine’s Behavioral and Functional Neuroscience Laboratory are co-led by bioengineering professor Annelise Barron, director of the California campus site and a Washington native, and Mehrdad Shamloo, a neurosurgery professor. The study began in May 2018.
“It’s a good place to do this kind of work. This research requires behavioral testing of rats, a specialized field,” Barron said. “This will just be the beginning.”
Tribal board of directors members Bonnie Juneau, Teri Gobin and Les Parks toured the Stanford facility a few years before the August 2018 opening of Remedy Tulalip, the first cannabis shop on tribal land in Snohomish County.
“Tulalip Tribes is committed to developing cannabis-derived medicines with the potential to treat opioid addiction. We are proud to sponsor this cutting-edge research,” Gobin said in a news release. She was elected tribal board chairwoman earlier this month.
“Like so many communities across the nation, we are deploying an ever-increasing amount of resources to fight this epidemic,” she said. “We decided a new approach was necessary. As sovereigns, we have a unique responsibility to our people, and providing a natural remedy to the opioid epidemic is our priority.”
“It is very challenging to receive funding to study positive effects or benefits of cannabis because it is a Schedule 1 drug federally,” Barron said. “And the definition of a Schedule 1 drug is that it has a risk of harm and, moreover, that it has no medicinal benefits.”
She noted there have been strides in the government acceptance of some forms.
“The FDA has recently approved a cannabis-derived drug for the treatment of epilepsy,” Barron said.
The Alzheimer’s research uses mice. The addiction study uses rats that self-administer heroin.
“The rat can press a lever and dose itself with heroin. We essentially allow the rat to self-addict to heroin,” she said.
“Then we look at the effects of treating them with cannabis oil extracts during a period of abstinence to see how that affects heroin-seeking behavior after abstinence. So when the drug is available again, will they be more or less likely to seek heroin?”
The researchers seek to “isolate a novel cannabinoid within cannabis oil which is nonpsychoactive and nonaddictive, because that would be the ideal treatment for heroin addiction,” she said.
“That’s our moonshot goal.”