MedPharm, a Colorado-based cannabis research and formulation development company, announced Aug. 27 that it received word from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and has been selected to move forward in the application process to grow cannabis for research.
This comes after the DEA’s Aug. 26 announcement that it will take steps to expand the scientific and medical research of cannabis with a promise to approve additional federal cultivation licenses from a pool of 33 applications, most of which have been pending since 2016.
MedPharm submitted its application in September 2016, following the DEA’s announcement that it would begin accepting applications for additional cultivators to grow cannabis for research. (The University of Mississippi is the only cultivator currently licensed by the DEA to grow cannabis in the U.S. for research purposes.) MedPharm sought the license to meet the need for better quality cannabis and dosage forms for research purposes, as some researchers have complained about the quality of the cannabis provided by the University of Mississippi.
“As you know, the University of Mississippi has been the only [DEA licensee] that’s been allowed to provide cannabis or cannabis dosage forms for research purposes, and the quality of that product has been very poor and sub-par,” MedPharm CEO Albert Gutierrez tells Cannabis Business Times, reiterating claims made in a related lawsuit against the DEA. “In fact, there are things that we in Colorado would be shut down for. In order to do good research and give patients quality medicine, you want to make sure you’re giving them the right dosage forms or a high-quality product that doesn’t have the contaminants and the mold and the mildew in it. So, MedPharm saw that opportunity and saw the need to help patients get the right kind of treatment and for research to be done, and we took advantage of that.”
The DEA, however, has largely been radio silent in the nearly three years since MedPharm and others have submitted their applications.
“We had a few back-and-forth conversations with DEA and DOJ a couple years ago, scattered out, but it’s nice to finally see some movement,” Gutierrez says.
In a letter to Gutierrez, the DEA stated that MedPharm has been selected to move forward in the licensing process, and that it will eventually be issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, where the company will be asked to comment on the DEA’s proposed regulations for cultivating cannabis for medical research. The DEA has not provided a timetable for when those regulations will be completed, however.
If and when regulations materialize and a license is granted to MedPharm, Gutierrez says the company is eager to start on a few different research projects, which will be led by MedPharm’s parent company, Medicine Man Technologies. One, orchestrated through the state of Colorado, will kick off later this year to research cannabis’s impact on dementia and Alzheimer’s. Subsequent projects will focus on using cannabis as an alternative to opiates and studying how cannabis might impact cancer cells, Gutierrez says.
Overall, Gutierrez is optimistic that the DEA will indeed finally take steps to expand cannabis research.
“This is a big deal for a number of reasons,” he says. “One, as I mentioned, [is] it’s important that we get high-quality dosage forms and flower to patients. … No. 2, I think the research we’ve all been calling for for so long at the federal level and at the state level is absolutely necessary to figure out the what, why and how behind cannabis, cannabinoids [and] terpenes and how they come together to provide relief to patients, whether it’s a symptom or even solving an actual condition. We want to be a part of that.”
Gutierrez predicts that significant research into cannabis will be completed over the next 10-20 years, and that advancements will lead to doctors and patients being able to pinpoint exactly how cannabis can help specific conditions.
“It’s important now that we think about the future and producing consistent, high-quality dosage forms related to cannabis, and that’s exactly what MedPharm’s ready to do,” Gutierrez says. “And we’re happy to work alongside the DEA and Department of Justice to bring this to fruition and make this finally not just a monopoly from the University of Mississippi, but also bring high-quality cannabis and dosage forms to the patients."