Medical Cannabis & Research

Quality research was an important goal of mine when I was advocating to bring medical cannabis to Pennsylvania.  That’s why I was especially pleased – and strongly supported – an amendment Representative Kathy Watson added during House deliberations to establish “Chapter 20”:  “Academic Clinical Research Centers.”

An Academic Clinical Research Center is an accredited Pennsylvania medical school that operates or partners with an acute care hospital within the Commonwealth.

To the best of my knowledge, there are nine medical schools in Pennsylvania:  the Perelman School of Medicine (University of Pennsylvania), the Pittsburgh School of Medicine (University of Pittsburgh), Thomas Jefferson University, the Temple School of Medicine, The Geisinger Commonwealth Medical College, Drexel University College of Medicine, Penn State Hershey College of Medicine, Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine, and Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.

Under the provisions of Pennsylvania’s 2016 medical cannabis law, these institutions would be able to enter into a contractual relationship with a “clinical registrant” – an entity holding both a medical cannabis grower/processor permit and a medical cannabis dispensary permit – to compete for one of eight clinical research permits to conduct medial cannabis research.

For me, research has been – and continues to be – a key component in advocating for the use of medical cannabis.  Throughout the debates over my bill, I was told:  “Mike, you don’t have the research to prove the benefits of medical cannabis – all you have are anecdotes.”

To the contrary, I had done my research – and I continue to do my research, talking with experts from across the nation and some from other parts of the world.  More importantly, I have seen the benefits for countless patients – especially children and veterans.  Before using medical cannabis they were either non-functioning or “didn’t feel human.”  After medical cannabis, the impacts were remarkable and each had a profound and lasting impact on me personally.

I’m pleased with the outstanding collaboration I’ve seen from the Governor and his Administration, the Pennsylvania Department of Health, and the four legislative caucuses (Senate Republicans, Senate Democrats, House Republicans, and House Democrats) in developing the required regulations to implement this key component of Pennsylvania’s medical cannabis law.

I believe there’s a shared goal to ensure the roll out of medical cannabis in Pennsylvania will serve the needs of patients throughout the Commonwealth in an efficient and timely manner.  I also believe Chapter 20 and its research goals will make Pennsylvania a leader not only in the nation but throughout the world in medical cannabis research.

When my bill to give patients the option of seeking the benefits of medical cannabis was being deliberated, Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman probably said it best:  “this issue is too big, it’s too important, and too many people are depending on us to get it right.”  Senator Corman added:  “for all the times the Senate has been criticized for acting too quickly, this is one time we’re going to take our time to be sure we get it right.”

As work has proceeded to bring medical cannabis to Pennsylvania, many have acknowledged both the House and Senate “got it right” in enacting this law and much has been accomplished to date to allow for its timely and effective implementation.

Hopefully, implementation of Chapter 20 and the establishment of up to eight clinical registrants will be next.  To me, ensuring proper implementation of Chapter 20 requires everyone to remain focused on the goal, namely:  RESEARCH!