About this scholarship
The issue: Cannabis user and grower advocates have raised concern about harmful chemicals including Plant Growth Regulators (PGRs) in ‘nutrients’ and fertilizer products aimed at cannabis growers and sold online and in grow shops. What is unclear is the extent to which cannabis users and small scale growers in Australia and other countries are aware of the issue of PGRs, whether that concerns them, and how this affects decisions and behaviour regarding growing, providing, accessing, and using cannabis.
Background: Cannabis is the most widely used illicit drug with roughly 10% of Australians over 14 having used in the last 12 months. Internationally some 188 million people are estimated to have used the drug in the same period. A major problem with illicit drug markets is that drug users cannot be confident in the contents and quality of drugs they use. While concern about impurities is often raised in relation to illicit drugs such as MDMA, cocaine and heroin, the issue of impurities in cannabis is given less attention. Not only is there a common perception that cannabis is entirely natural and safe for consumption, it is increasingly viewed as medically beneficial. However, for at least 20 years many users have consumed cannabis grown using ‘nutrients’ and fertilisers sold online and in ‘grow shops’, and research suggests that, in many cases, the labels on these products have not reflected their true contents. Indeed, there are indications that many contain dangerous chemicals, notably PGRs, that have been banned in agriculture for decades due to their toxicity. PGRs which are permitted for use in the decorative plant/flower industry produce small plants with many flowers, ideal for illegal cannabis growing which aims to produce the maximum quantity of flower ‘heads’ for smoking. Although these ‘nutrient’ products are subject to regulatory control in Australia, these regulations rely on self-assessment and seem rarely enforced. Cannabis community advocates have been instrumental in raising concerns about the use of these chemicals and bringing them to the attention of regulators in jurisdictions which have legal cannabis markets such as in the USA and Canada, but the extent to which they are an issue for cannabis growers and users in other markets is unclear.
Methods: This mixed-methods research will build on the supervisory team’s previous research on this topic and will involve working with cannabis growers and cannabis consumers to develop a web survey of growers and cannabis users addressing these issues. The research will also involve more in depth face-to-face and online qualitative interviews with members of these groups, along with regulators, advocates and other stakeholders.
Significance: The work will inform the development of harm reduction strategies developed with and targeted at cannabis growers and users, be relevant to policies regarding the regulation of these products, and be of interest to those involved in policy change towards a legal recreational cannabis market.
Total value of the annual scholarships (stipend and fees) is approx. $60,000 - $70,000 p.a. Curtin PhD Stipends are valued at $28,597 p.a. for up to a maximum of 3.5 years. Successful applicants will receive a 100% Fee offset.
An Honours 1 or 2A, or Masters by Research graduate in a relevant discipline (e.g. psychology, public health) with proven ability to undertake quantitative and qualitative research. Experience in online survey construction would be an advantage. Understanding of illicit drug use issues would be an advantage.
Contact and more information
To enquire about this project opportunity contact the Project lead:
Professor Simon Lenton
Tel: 08 9266 1603
Full details: Click here