2023 Cannabis Symposium

Program of Events

Welcome to the UConn Cannabis Symposium, an exclusive event for students, educators, and members of the cannabis industry can gather to share information in the emerging cannabis field. March 16-17, expert speakers from around the country cover topics related to cannabis such as: plant production, biochemistry and genetics, clinical impacts, law and policy, and the future of the industry.

Plenary Speaker

Aron Lichtman

Aron Lichtman, PhD

Professor, Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Virginia Commonwealth University

Dr. Lichtman is a preeminent cannabis scholar from Virginia Commonwealth University. He is an international expert on the pharmacological effects of cannabinoids on behavior, pain intervention, and disease whose research has been continuously funded by NIH for over 30 years. The International Cannabinoid Research Society (ICRS) recognized Dr. Lichtman for outstanding research contributions with the 2013 Mechoulam Award. He also is a co-inventor on two patents for a THC metered dose inhaler, which progressed through Phase II clinical trials, and serves on the Scientific Advisory Board of Sea Pharmaceuticals as well as for Abide Therapeutics until its acquisition by H. Lundbeck A/S in May 2019. His research group has provided proof of principle through complementary approaches using drugs and genetically engineered mice that the endogenous cannabinoid system contains promising therapeutic targets to treat a variety of disease states.

Featured Talks

Matthew Indest

Matthew Indest, PhD

Technical Director of Agronomy and Plant Improvement, Curaleaf

Breeding Cannabis for Improved Performance in Controlled Environments

Dr. Indest supports Curaleaf’s network of cultivators through a combination of in-person site visits and Image Analysis to diagnose plant health and provide recommendations to local managers. He designs, coordinates, and analyzes research projects, evaluates technologies, and advises on best practices for improving yield, quality, and consistency of cannabis.

Eric Jackson

Eric Jackson, PhD

Director, Connecticut Transportation Safety Research Center, Connecticut Transportation Institute at UConn

Driving Impairment Effects of Cannabis

Dr. Jackson currently leads the Connecticut Transportation Safety Research Center (CTSRC) at UConn, which assisted in the complete overhaul and modernization of crash data and safety analysis in the state. Dr. Jackson is working to integrate data across public health, toxicology, judicial, crash and roadway systems to create a repository for traffic safety analysis. He and his team are also heavily involved in training law enforcement and assisting the state in evaluating forensics solutions to detecting and evaluating impaired drivers.


March 16, 2023

8:00-8:30 a.m. Registration, Student Union Ballroom Foyer (outside 330/331)

8:30-9:00 a.m. Welcome and Announcements, Student Union Ballroom 330/331

9:00-10:30 a.m. Research Talks: Session 1

Session 1a: Cannabis Genetics and Biology, Student Union Ballroom 330/331

  • Richard Sayre, PhD, Senior Research Scientist, New Mexico Consortium
    Metabolic engineering strategies to improve cannabinoid production and efficacy as a pharmaceutical
  • Jacob Toth, PhD, Postdoctoral Associate, Cornell University
    Genetics of major and minor cannabinoids
  • Lauren Sands, MS, Senior Laboratory Technician, SafeTiva Labs
    Identification of hormone responsive elements in the promoter of a cannabis gene encoding the rate-limiting step in cannabinoid synthesis: hormone regulation during flower development
  • Yi Li, PhD, Professor of Horticultural Plant Biotechnology, UConn
    Development of transient gene expression tools for functional analysis and editing of cannabis genome
  • Sam Haiden, MS, Graduate Research Assistant in Cannabis Molecular Biology, UConn
    "Spectral Diet" and the role of phytochrome signaling in cannabis flower/ trichome development and cannabinoid biosynthesis.

Session 1b: Physiological Effects of Cannabinoids, Student Union Theater, First Floor

  • Martin Kaczocha, PhD Associate Professor, SUNY Stony Brook
    Targeting FABP5 to treat pain and inflammation
  • Eric Levine, PhD Professor of Neuroscience, UConn
    Endocannbainoid modulation of hippocampal synaptic plasticity
  • Steve Kinsey, PhD Director, Center for Advancement in Managing Pain, UConn
    Cannbinoid targets for combatting pain and inflammation
  • Godfrey Pearlson, Yale, Institute of Living
    Cannabis Research at the Institute of Living: Neuropsychiatric approaches to substance use 

10:30-11:00 a.m. Break, Student Union Ballroom 330/331

11:00 a.m. 12:30 p.m. Research Talks: Session 2

Session 2a: Refining the Clinical Applications of Cannabis, Student Union Ballroom 330/331

  • Sarah Lichenstein, PhD, Assistant Professor of Psychology, Yale
    Neuromarkers of problem cannabis use and cannabis treatment outcomes
  • William Zempsky, MD, Division Head, Pain & Palliative Care, CT Children's Hospital
  • Robert Astur, PhD, Associate Professor of Psychological Sciences, UConn
    Cannabidiol (CBD) effects on fear extinction in people with social anxiety
  • Eric Jackson, PhD Executive Director, Connecticut State Transportation Research Center, UConn
    Connecticut's Wet/Green Lab:  How to Train Law Enforcment on Cannabis Impairment Detection
  • Elizabeth Mayerson, DNP, RN, APRN, FNP-BC, CNE, Assistant Clinical Professor, UConn
    Medical marijuana in clinical practice

Session 2b: Enhancing Production of Cannabis, Student Union Theater, First Floor

  • Mitchell Westmoreland, MS, Utah State University
    Temperature effects on growth, development and quality of medical cannabis
  • Ann Hazelrigg, PhD, Director of Plant Diagnostic Clinic, University of Vermont
    Efficacy of fungicides for control of cannabis diseases
  • Jessica Lubell-Brand, PhD, Associate Professor, UConn
    A novel method of cannabis micropropagation
  • Lauren Kurtz, MS, Graduate Student, UConn
    Preventing seeds in colas using triploidy

12:30-1:30 p.m. Lunch, Student Union Ballroom 330/331

1:30-3:00 p.m. Research Talks: Session 3

Session 3a: Cannabinoids as a Potential Pathway to Defeat Breast Cancer, Student Union Ballroom 330/331

  • Jaime Brambila Fernandez, Co-Founder and COO, Grace Health & Wellness
    Raising awareness: The implementation of medical cannabis and psychedelics used as an adjunct to standard therapy in the treatment of advanced metastatic breast cancer
  • Jose Gascon, PhD, Professor of Chemistry, UConn
    Molecular modeling of cannabidiol conversion to tetrahydrocannabinol
  • Alex Melnik, MS, Chemistry Research Scientist, UConn Chemistry
    Leveraging advanced mass spectrometry tools to explore complex cannabinoid distributions
  • Greg Sotzing, PhD, Professor of Chemistry, UConn
    Polycannabinoids, antioxidant bioplastics

Session 3b: Cannabis Genetics and Biology; Industry Approaches, Student Union Theater, First Floor

  • Kevin McKernan, CSO and Founder, Medicinal Genomics
    Hop latent viroid shares a 19 nucleotide sequence with Cannabis sativa COG7
  • Bryan Connolly, PhD, Assistant Professor of Biology, Eastern Connecticut State University
    Conducting cannabis cultivation research with undergraduate students
  • Matthew Indest, PhD, Curaleaf
    Breeding cannabis for improved performance in controlled environments
  • Michael Goodenough, Co-Founder and CTO, Sweetheal CBD
    Protecting the major influence of the minor cannabinoids
  • Terri Arsenault, Assistant Agricultural Science, Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station
    The relationship between field sampling and compliance testing of cannabis plant material

3:30-5:00 p.m. Poster Session and Exhibitors, Student Union Room 304

5:00-5:30 p.m. Reception, Student Union Ballroom 330/331

5:30 p.m. Dinner, Student Union Ballroom 330/331

6:00-7:00 p.m. Keynote Address

Aron Lichtman, PhD (Virginia Commonwealth University)
Endocannabinoid regulating enzymes: Budding targets to treat pain

March 17, 2023

8:30-9:00 a.m. Registration, Student Union Ballroom Foyer (outside 330/331)

9:00-10:30 a.m. Research Talks: Session 4

Session 4a: Pharmacologic and Clinical Effects of Synthetic Cannabinoids, Student Union Ballroom 330/331

  • C. Michael White, PharmD, Distinguished Professor of Pharmacy Practice, UConn
    Effects of illicit synthetic cannabinoids
  • Trevor Bozeman, PhD, CSO, East Coast Green Solutions
    Chemistry of synthetic cannabinoids
  • Olivia Vanegas, MS, Graduate Research Associate, UConn
    The minor cannabinoid cannabinol (CBN) has analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties
  • Antonio Matthew Reck, Graduate Research Associate, UConn
    Antipruritic effects of WIN55,212 in mice

Session 4b: Cannabis Law and Policy, Student Union Theater, First Floor


  • Tiana Hercules, Esq., MBA, Founder and CEO, Connecticut Cultivation Solutions & Lady Jane


  • Mauricio Agudelo, ESQ, President, H20 Health Ventures & Adjunct Professor of Law, UConn
  • Erin Gorman Kirk, ESQ, Founding Partner, Canna Government Strategies, LLC
  • Ian Butler, ESQ, Cannabis Law Department at Brown, Paindaris & Scott
  • Ginne-Rae Clay, MPA, CEDFP, CHDFP, Interim Executive Director, Social Equity Council

10:30-11:00 a.m. Break, Student Union Ballroom 330/331

11:00 a.m. 12:00 p.m. Industry Panel, Student Union Ballroom 330/331


  • Steve Kinsey, PhD Director, Center for Advancement in Managing Pain, UConn
  • Sam Haiden, MSGraduate Research Assistant in Cannabis Molecular Biology, UConn


  • Uzma Zakir, RPh, Director of Outreach, The Botanist
  • Jaime Brambila Fernandez, Co-Founder and COO, Grace Health and Wellness
  • Brian Thompson, PhD, Co-Founder and CEO, 3BC
  • Ryan Gresh, CEO and Founder, The Feelgood Lab

12:00-12:15 p.m. Closing Remarks, Student Union Ballroom 330/331


Leadership Sponsors

Green Sponsors

University Sponsors

University of Connecticut logo
  • Office of the Vice President for Research
  • College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources
  • College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
  • School of Law
  • School of Medicine
  • School of Nursing
  • School of Pharmacy

As a university that receives federal funding, UConn must remain compliant with the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act. Despite Connecticut legalizing marijuana for both recreational and medical purposes, it remains a Schedule I substance under the federal Controlled Substances Act. Consistent with federal law, UConn cannot permit on campus recruitment, sales or other activities that directly, indirectly or creates the appearance of supporting or promoting individuals or companies that (1) cultivate marijuana; (2) distribute marijuana or products containing THC; or (3) distributes drug paraphernalia for various drug-related purposes (e.g., growing, preparing, ingesting, or inhaling controlled substances).

UConn cannot allow vendors to sell or give away paraphernalia.