SciComm Studio 015: The Cannabis Conversation

Connect with researchers currently shaping the drug policy landscape.

Photo: Ádám Tomkó, "Füstmadár - Smoke Bird" CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 via Flickr.

Event Details


swissnex San Francisco
Pier 17, Suite 800, San Francisco, California 94111 United States


December 13, 2018 from 6:00 pm to 8:30 pm America/Los Angeles (UTC-08:00)



Recent policy shifts have opened doors to marijuana research, consumption, and industry. But the legal and social gray area of marijuana can also cloud the public’s understanding of its benefits, risks, and possibilities.

Sorting through “the weeds” of marijuana policy means sifting through misinformation from both the drug’s critics and its most zealous enthusiasts. This landscape can create unique challenges for scientists seeking to provide accurate information about the science and legislation that drives drug policy, with lessons that can apply to any scientist working on controversial topics.

Our final SciComm Studio of 2018 presents insights from researchers and practitioners who are shaping the drug policy landscape and making information accessible through novel methods of public engagement — from community action to interactive communications campaigns.


6:00pm — doors open
6:30pm — presentations
7:30pm — networking
8:30pm — doors close


Serafina Calarco

Serafina Calarco is a PhD candidate at the Institute of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine at the University of Bern. Her interdisciplinary PhD project focuses on understanding the function of the endocannabinoid system, the main biological target of Cannabis. Serafina’s desire to effectively disseminate information about her research, driven also by her awareness of the socio-political and economic relevance of the subject, led her to pursue a project with swissnex San Francisco’s Pier 17 Science Studio fellowship program. The goals of her current project are to inform, intrigue, reduce stigma and to create cannabis-oriented conversations within society. Serafina obtained her master’s degree in Pharmaceutical Chemistry at the University of Bologna. During her career she studied for one year respectively at the University of Granada and at the The University Hospital of Geneva (HUG).

Laura Herrera

Laura Herrera is a consultant from the border community of El Paso, Texas who has resided in the Bay Area for over eight years. Her doctoral research interest focuses on bridging the gap between cannabis research and public health education. Since 2010, she has been deeply integrated in the cannabis industry in cultivation, manufacturing, and medicinal/policy research as well as exploring the therapeutic uses for cannabis and other plant-based medicines. In 2017, she began consulting full-time with cannabis businesses. She is an expert in transitioning cannabis operations into legal commercial businesses, and has conducted extensive research on cannabis policy, developing standard operating procedures and operational structure to bring organizations into compliance with city and state laws. In 2018 she was hired as the Public Affairs Liaison at Oaksterdam University, and is launching the new Oaksterdam University Office of Government and Public Affairs (OGPA) website in 2019. OGPA is dedicated to the advancement, education, and implementation of reasonable, evidence-based cannabis policy. OGPA works with municipal, county, state, federal, and international government agencies and elected officials to provide training and certification so that regulators and administrators understand the many dimensions of cannabis science and business.

Larissa J. Maier

Larissa J. Maier is an SNSF-funded postdoc at the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). Her research aims to evaluate substance use behavior in relation to drug policy contexts and to leverage digital health technologies to increase access to treatment for people with problematic use. She is committed to changing the negative narrative about people who use drugs to reduce stigma and increase public health by means of effective science communication. Before moving to San Francisco, Larissa worked as a research associate at the Swiss Research Institute for Public Health and Addiction (ISGF) at the University of Zurich and as a consultant in drug use epidemiology at the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in Vienna. Since 2014, she is a member of the Core Research Team of the Global Drug Survey (GDS) aiming to make drug use safer, regardless of the legal status of the drug. Also, she is an active member of several professional societies (CPDD, EUSPR, ISSDP, ISSUP, SPR) with an international focus and has, most recently, joined the leadership team of the UCSF Science Policy Group.

Photo: Ádám Tomkó, “Füstmadár – Smoke BirdCC BY-NC-ND 2.0 via Flickr.

Event Photos