Philadelphia’s Thomas Jefferson University launches first-of-its-kind medical cannabis research
Cannabis research is taking a step forward this week, with researchers at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia announcing the launch of two studies set to determine whether or not cannabis has any benefits. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the university is about to embark upon the first state-authorized medical marijuana research program in the nation, with officials looking to recruit patients for two new studies.
The first study will focus on any one of 23 qualifying “serious illnesses” to determine if cannabis increases a person’s quality of life. The Inquirer notes that the university received approval from the state to perform research on a wide variety of ailments, including chronic pain, anxiety, cancer, autism, PTSD, and opioid-use disorder.
The other study seeks to learn more about the process of obtaining medical marijuana in Pennsylvania, with researchers speaking to small focus groups about their experiences with doctors and in medical cannabis dispensaries. Participants will receive debit cards with varying amounts of money pre-loaded on them, depending on the study.
“This is the first time there’s ever been a partnership between an American cannabis producer and academic researchers,” said Brooke Worster, a physician at Jefferson’s Sidney Kimmel Medical College to the Inquirer. “There may be similar projects going on in Israel, but there’s been nothing like this before in the United States.”
The state of Pennsylvania is placing a lot of focus on medical marijuana research, hoping that it brings acclaim to its many universities and medical centers.
“From the beginning, the research portion of our medical marijuana program in Pennsylvania has set the state apart," Rachel Levine, secretary of the State Department of Health, told the Inquirer. “We will be an epicenter for medical marijuana research in the United States.”
According to the Inquirer, at least eight universities in the state have already paired up with cannabis companies in hopes of developing new strains of medical marijuana, including the University of Pennsylvania, Drexel University, and Temple University.
For its part, Jefferson joined forces with Ethos Cannabis, who is headquartered in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.
“Our goal is to collect as much data as we can,” David Clapper, president of Ethos Pennsylvania, told the Inquirer. “We hope to accommodate thousands of patients, though we’re probably looking at between 50 and 500 patients per study.”
Partnering with a cannabis company takes this research to a new level, as previous studies had no way of knowing which products or strains of cannabis their patients were using. Because marijuana is illegal at the federal level, universities cannot dispense any cannabis for fear of losing out on federal loans and other benefits.
“Unless they bring in the box, they often won’t know what they’re taking," Worster told the Inquirer. “Working with Ethos, now we can have tighter control. This is light years above anything that we’ve been previously capable of doing.”