ForceBrands’ specialized HerbForce division and cannabis community platform Trailblazers came together on Wednesday to present a fundraiser to benefit UCLA Health’s Cannabis Research Initiative.

The event was hosted by ForceBrands’ Founder and CEO Josh Wand; No. 14’s Co-Founder and Partner Marci Freedman; OpenNest’s Partner Michael Kamins; and OpenNest’s Founder Tyler Wakstein. The fundraiser took place at ForceBrands’ New York City headquarters in TriBeCa and featured guest speaker Dr. Jeff Chen, Executive Director of UCLA’s Cannabis Research Initiative.

“This is the beginning of many cannabis fundraisers,” Wand said during opening remarks. “We’re honored to have Dr. Jeff Chen here to tell his story and share his passion in such a real way.” He then introduced Dr. Chen who led a presentation highlighting the history of cannabis, how it affects our bodies, its unique composition, and the challenges of getting cannabis to the masses amid the clash with big pharmaceutical companies.

“I spent my whole life not necessarily as a strong advocate for cannabis and if you asked me about its medical benefits, I would have thought it was a joke,” Dr. Chen said speaking about how he became involved in the industry. “It was through my patients — seeing their transformative experiences — that I uncovered a secret that I felt compelled to share.” UCLA Health Cannabis Research Initiative Fundraiser

Dr. Chen established the Cannabis Research Initiative in 2017, which has grown to encompass dozens of UCLA faculty members working on cannabis-related research, education, patient care, and policy projects.

Dr. Chen’s presentation explained how cannabis has been around for more than 500 million years and how the endocannabinoid (meaning ‘internal cannabis like’) system evolved in our ancient ancestors.

“About 3,000 years ago, the medical use of cannabis was discovered in China,” Dr. Chen said. “Until about 150 years ago, it was officially listed as a medicine in America. From about 1850-1940, it was a commonly prescribed medicine in America — meaning we actually had nationally, federally legal marijuana until a wave of prohibition hit.”

Dr. Chen offered educational insights about the cannabis plant and went into details about the differences between THC and CBD, ultimately stating that although they differ in their effects upon consumption, they share similar properties in that they both help alleviate pain, inflammation, and more.

“Whether you call it marijuana, cannabis, hemp, sativa, or my personal favorite, devil’s lettuce, it’s important to know that it’s all referring to the same plant. The differences come from the part of the plant that you’re using,” Dr. Chen said, adding that it’s specifically the unfertilized female flower of the cannabis plant where you find more than 100 cannabinoids.

Dr. Chen ended the presentation by discussing the clash between big pharmaceutical companies and grassroots organizations working to bring cannabis mainstream. One way to solve this — to raise more meaningful awareness about the health benefits of cannabis — is through education. UCLA is one of the few universities in the world leading this discussion and addressing this topic, helping the world to understand what cannabis is doing for the body, brain, and society.

“My final point is that there’s an urgent need to fund nonprofit research of natural cannabis,” Dr. Chen said in closing. “Here tonight, at this event, we’re the shining example of how cannabis brings us together.”

Learn more about the UCLA Cannabis Research Initiative here. To download the presentation, click here.

To make a tax deductible gift to support the UCLA Cannabis Research Initiative (UCLA CRI), email Jillian Flannery. Gifts are made to the UCLA Foundation and earmarked for the exclusive use by UCLA CRI. You can make the gift via credit card, check, wire, or stock transfer.