On April 30th a Harvard press release announced Charles “Bob” Broderick had donated  $9 million to Harvard and MIT to study the health effects of cannabis. He cited a “research void,” or as the schools call it, a “critical gap,” between scientific data on cannabis and the assertions made about it as a schedule I drug.

Broderick said, “The lack of basic science research enables people to make claims in a vacuum that are either anecdotal or based on old science. For generations, we haven’t been able to study this thing for various sorts of societal reasons. That should end now, as well as the prohibitions that are falling around the world.” 

The New York-based entrepreneur began investing in the industry through his family-run Uji Capital in 2015 and does stand to profit from positive findings. Both schools have pledged to release their results even if the outcomes are bad for marijuana and both said they require gifts come without strings attached. An alumnus of both universities, Broderick’s donation will come as 4.5 million to each school. 

MIT’s Plans

John Gabrieli is the Grover Hermann Professor of Health Sciences and Technology, a professor of brain and cognitive sciences, and a member of MIT’s McGovern Institute for Brain Research. He plans to investigate whether cannabis can have therapeutic value for autism spectrum disorders. Myriam Heiman, an Associate Professor of Neuroscience at the Picower Institute, intends to explore marijuana as a treatment against Huntington’s disease.  Gabrieli and Heiman will also collaborate to explore the relationship between cannabis and schizophrenia. 

Dr. Gabrieli commented, “The ultimate goal is to improve brain health and well-being. And we have to make informed decisions on the way to this goal, wherever the science leads us.” 

MIT Institute Professor Ann Graybiel will investigate how CB1 cannabinoid receptors in the brain control learning and habit formation. This will aid in understanding the effects of cannabis on casual users, as well as its relationship to addiction and psychiatric disorders. Lastly, Earl Miller, Picower Professor of Neuroscience at the Picower Institute, will study the effects of cannabinoids on attention and working memory. 

Harvard’s Plans

At Harvard, the 4.5 million dollar gift will establish the Charles R. Broderick Phytocannabinoid Research Initiative, involving some 30 scientists and clinicians at the medical school. The Harvard team plans to study the effects of marijuana ingredients on brain cell function and the connections between brain cells. 

The research this donation will fund is long overdue. In 2017, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine published a report detailing the need for philanthropic organizations, private companies, and public agencies to self-fund a “comprehensive evidence base” on short and long-term health effects of cannabis use. 

Their advisement came after reviewing 10,000 studies on cannabis that demonstrated substantial evidence for its use as a treatment for chronic pain, reducing vomiting from chemotherapy, and relieving painful muscle spasms from multiple sclerosis. These findings contradicted the federal classification of cannabis as a Schedule I drug with no medicinal value, making it clear that there is a gap between science and policy.

(if the length needs to be reduced, the highlighted paragraphs at the end can be removed, currently just over 500)


Freyer, Felice J. “Harvard, MIT Share $9 Million Gift to Study Marijuana’s Health Effects.” BostonGlobe.com. April 30, 2019. https://www2.bostonglobe.com/news/marijuana/2019/04/30/harvard-mit-share-million-gift-study-marijuana-health-effects/msGRE3aXYyzWjC4iBpwOEP/story.html.

Llorente, Elizabeth. “Cannabis Investor Donates $9M to Harvard, MIT for Marijuana Research.” Fox News. https://www.foxnews.com/health/cannabis-investor-donates-9m-harvard-mit-marijuana-research.

Person. “Alumnus Gives Harvard and MIT $9 Million for Cannabis Research.” Harvard Gazette. May 01, 2019. https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2019/04/alumnus-gives-harvard-and-mit-9-million-for-cannabis-research/.

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