A small crowd gathered Wednesday afternoon at the Cannabis Symposium hosted by students at the University of Colorado to listen to experts in the marijuana industry.

Around a dozen people attended panels and question-and-answer sessions about cannabis at the University Memorial Center on the Boulder campus.

In an opening discussion, panelists took questions gathered from CU students this spring through an online survey.

"Are there topics around cannabis to help restore world peace?" asked Neelah Ali, one of the symposium's student organizers.

Experts also considered topics involving hemp, the war on drugs, drug policy at the federal level and the barriers to entry into the industry for minorities.

The day-long event was an attempt to "repurpose" the annual 4/20 marijuana smokeout on the campus, which had drawn 10,000 people to Norlin Quadrangle at its peak. Organizers have said they hope to host the symposium in future years on April 20.

University officials in February announced that they would close the campus for a third consecutive year to curtail any potential 4/20 gathering. After attendance dwindled to just several hundred in 2012, the smokeout was effectively killed last year.

In a session about the health effects of cannabis, moderator and student Tyler Williams asked the panelists about the known benefits of marijuana.

Aari Ruben, director of the Desert Bloom Re-Leaf Center in Tucson, Ariz., said that while there isn't much hard data yet to support marijuana's health benefits, they are apparent in the lives of individuals.

"The biggest thing is just that we see over and over and over again that it works and that people, they get better and they're able to get up and move around and live their daily lives," Ruben said. "And I think it's becoming pretty clear on the anecdotal level. The hard science is just now emerging."

Audience member Don Misch, who's also director of the Wardenburg Health Center, spoke up and described his views on how marijuana may be detrimental to learning and memory for students.

Compared to other drugs, including alcohol, marijuana may not be so bad for a person's health or to society, Misch said.

But, he added, it's not a completely benign drug. Research has shown that, especially among developing brains in children, marijuana can be harmful.

Misch told the panel and audience members that medical experts realize they don't have all the answers yet about the drug.

"What I think we do have reason to be worried about is the earlier you use, the more you use, the greater the risk," he said. "Earlier and more is probably worse than later and less."

Other panels and speakers discussed topics ranging from the economics of cannabis to the mapping of the cannabis genome.

Contact Camera Staff Writer Sarah Kuta at 303-473-1106, kutas@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/sarahkuta.