The state of Pennsylvania finally commenced the United States’ very first state-supported research endeavor of medical marijuana, said The Philadelphia Inquirer. This research program will be conducted by the Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University in collaboration with Ethos Cannabis.
To start the study, which will have two parts, the research team is currently looking for patients willing to participate in the first study. According to the scientists, participants will be compensated accordingly through their debit cards. The team has already received 60 applications.
In the initial part, involves observation of participants who have one of the 23 qualifying medical conditions in the medical marijuana program of the state. The key objective of this investigation is to see how the implementation of a medical cannabis treatment and aid can help improve the quality of life of the participants. Findings extracted from this first part will be used to pinpoint what other aspects of such treatments the researchers should look into in future studies.
After this initial investigation, the team will proceed to a focus group discussion involving a new set of respondents, which is expected to inform the researchers about their experiences, from acquiring a patient certification to visiting marijuana dispensaries. This part also involves a clinical trial, which will study the effectiveness of marijuana in treating symptoms found in cancer patients, specifically nausea and weight loss.
Huge Progress for the Nation
Physician Brooke Worster from Jefferson’s Sidney Kimmel Medical College said that this project is “the first time there’s ever been a partnership between an American cannabis producer and academic researchers.” Worster, who is the team head, also mentioned that Israel has similar investigations, but this is the very first such project in the United States.
Jefferson and Ethos Cannabis is not the only partnership operating in Pennsylvania. As mentioned, a total of eight schools have teamed up with marijuana-focused firms in doing extensive cannabis research. The main goal of these partnerships is to create new marijuana strains for medical purposes.
The main part played by marijuana companies in these partnerships is to fund the research, at least in the case of Jefferson and Ethos Cannabis. More than this, President David Clapper said, “Our goal is to collect as much data as we can,” he added, “We hope to accommodate thousands of patients, though we’re probably looking at between 50 and 600 patients per study.” The data gathered through this research is expected to help the team determine the kind of marijuana that shows the best effects on patients with specific conditions.
Worster remarked that this partnership allowed her team to determine the type of cannabis patients use to address their ailments. She said, “Working with Ethods, now we can have tighter control. This is light years above anything we’ve been previously capable of doing.”
The Current Standing of Marijuana in PA and the US
The idea to allow universities to partner up with marijuana companies for the researchers was created back in 2016 when the state enacted the Medical Marijuana Act. A significant part of the law consists of rules pertaining to the establishment of a medical marijuana research program and support for academic clinical research centers.
The current marijuana laws of the state are still relatively rigid when it comes to possession, sale, distribution, cultivation and possession of paraphernalia. These offenses, except for cultivation which is automatically considered a felony, can be penalized as misdemeanors or felonies, depending on the degree. These are punishable by jail time and fines.
It is important to note that Pennsylvania is one of the 33 states with a medical marijuana program. Of this number, 11 states and Washington, DC have legalized recreational marijuana. While a lot of states in the country have started allowing medical marijuana for patients, the federal government still considers it a Schedule I drug and is, thus, illegal.
However, a federal law called the Farm Bill of 2018 has made the cultivation of hemp, a cannabidiol-rich strain of cannabis with scientific name Cannabis sativa L. Specifically, hemp is a cannabis plant with less than 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), while marijuana is the type that has more than 0.3% THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis. It is seen as potential energy and cash crop, because of its fibrous plant.
This law also made it legal to consume cannabidiol or CBD derived from hemp. CBD is a highly medicinal compound found in cannabis. A great development in federal law includes the legalization of Epidiolex, a purified form of CBD, which is no longer considered a controlled substance, thanks to Farm Bill.
Other Clinical Research in PA
A report by The Tribune-Democrat revealed that other school-company partnerships include Drexel University College of Medicine and Agronomed Biologics LLC, Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University and Laurel Harvest Labs LL, Penn State College of Medicine and PA Options for Wellness, Inc., The Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and Curaleaf PA LLC, Lake Eerie College of Osteopathic Medicine and CannTech PA LLC, and Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine and Organic Remedies, Inc.
The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine is the eighth school to be permitted to conduct such research. However, its proposal for the partner company was rejected by the state of Pennsylvania.
Aside from Jefferson’s research, other universities have also revealed a direction for their respective projects. Penn State will be creating a database to compare responses from patients with approved medical conditions for its first part. The second component involves the performance of double-blind clinical trials, which will be conducted in collaboration with PA Options for Wellness. Its third and last part will include the study of cell cultures and animals to understand the proper dosages and cannabinoid combination.
Two other partnerships Drexel University and Agronomed Biologics and Lake Eerie College and CannTech PA, also offered insight into its study. The two duos seek to get information from patients to understand how cannabis affects patients with qualifying conditions.