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Pennsylvania MMJ research program put on hold

May has been a roller coaster month for the State of Pennsylvania's medical marijuana research program.

Earlier this year, Pennsylvania, became the first state in the country to propose a research component to their medical marijuana program.

Under the law, eight schools of medicine would be chosen to take the lead in the study of medical cannabis and its impact on future treatments for patients.

Currently, only a few doctors are approved to study medical cannabis in the United States because of its status as a Schedule I drug. This has severely limited research into the medical benefits of the plant.

At the beginning of May, Governor Tom Wolf announced the eight universities that had been chosen to lead the study into medical marijuana. The list can be found here, and includes:

  • 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
These institutions, now known as Certified Academic Clinical Research Centers, will be responsible for growing, processing and dispensing medical marijuana.

Each university is allowed to choose a Clinical Registrant, or CR, which will be licensed to run one grow room and up to six retail dispensaries.

In addition, the Pennsylvania Department of Health announced temporary regulations that implement all the following recommendations of the Medical Marijuana Advisory Board:
  • Revising the serious chronic pain definition to no longer require patients to use opiods before medical marijuana
  • Permitting medical marijuana to be dispensed in dry leaf or plant form, for administration by vaporization
  • Allowing physicians to opt out of the public-facing practitioner list while remaining in the Patient and Caregiver Registry
  • Requiring patients to pay the $50 medical marijuana identification card fee once in a 12-month period.
One of the problems with this research program is that it gives an unfair advantage to the Clinical Registrants who are chosen by approved colleges.

Every current medical marijuana provider had to go through a long and costly process in order to be licensed. In most cases, these businesses invested millions of dollars to get started.

In the case of these Clinical Registrants, they are chosen directly by the colleges with little to no scrutiny compared to what the rest of the medical marijuana community went through. On top of the easy approval process, these CR's will be selling medical marijuana in the commercial market. Something that was not intended in the initial legislation

An injunction issued by a commonwealth court judge, Patricia McCullough, has prevented the program from moving forward until arguments have been heard in the case. McCullough, agreed that laws governing the new research program "appear to authorize commercial activity not provided for in the Act."
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