Pennsylvania is leaping ahead with medical cannabis research in the United States by empowering local universities to partner with cannabis companies and study medical cannabis. Unfortunately, loopholes in the legislation caused delays as lawmakers worked to keep the integrity of the program while supporting those driven to research cannabis.
“The research component of Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program sets it apart from the rest of the nation,” Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said in a statement. “Today, medical research is so limited by the federal government that only a few doctors can even have access to medical marijuana. Pennsylvania’s premiere medical schools will be able to help shape the future of treatment for patients who are in desperate need not just here, but across the country.”
Pennsylvania announced the eight schools last month that are approved to study cannabis. Each of the Certified Academic Clinical Research Centers must be an accredited medical school that operates or partners with a licensed acute care hospital, and both must be in the state.
The eight universities include:
- Drexel University College of Medicine, Philadelphia
- Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University, Philadelphia
- Penn State College of Medicine, Hershey
- Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia
- Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
- University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh
- Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine, Erie
- Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, Philadelphia
The schools also must partner with a cannabis company for the data instead of growing their own for research due to the federal status of cannabis. Partnerships were announced ahead of their approval for the medical research program, including Drexel and Acreage Holdings and Lake Erie and Franklin Labs. Penn had announced a partnership with then-named PalliaTech, but the company, now called Curaleaf, went to court with other companies after it was discovered that labs partnering with universities could have their own cultivation and processing facilities without undergoing the rigorous licensing process.
The court case caused an amendment to the original 2016 bills which was finalized in June and which governed the certification of the eight medical schools selected for the program.
Pennsylvania allows for several conditions to qualify for medical cannabis, including terminal illness, post-traumatic stress disorder, opioid use disorder, spastic movement disorders and neurodegenerative diseases.
44,000 out of the 70,000 Pennsylvanians that applied for the medical cannabis program have been certified, and over 800 medical professionals have been approved to recommend it to patients.