The Department of Health has announced that none of the eight applicants to grow, process and dispense medical marijuana for research institutions has been awarded a permit. Spokesperson April Hutcheson said six of the applications were incomplete and two did not meet minimum standards.
The news comes as the department faces a lawsuit from a group of commercial grower processers and dispensaries that contend the application process is unfair. Harrisburg attorney Judith Cassell represents the plaintiffs in the case, and said she believes the department’s decision to reopen the application process is directly related to the suit.
“What we predicted would happen is in fact the case. The process itself is flawed and this process is not likely to yield usable candidates,” Cassell said.
Eight universities have been approved by the state to research medical marijuana, including the University of Pittsburgh, Penn State and Drexel University. Under the current regulations, entities that want to grow marijuana for research purposes have to establish a relationship with a university in order to apply. Cassell said the state should change the regulations in order to open up the process to more applicants.
But Hutcheson said existing commercial grower processors can apply if they develop a relationship with a university, and that in theory there could be more than eight applications. She also said the process is equally as competitive and rigorous as previous application rounds for commercial licenses.
“What we want to ensure is that we’re getting the best quality product and medication and research programs available to Pennsylvania’s patients,” Hutcheson said. “They really need this research to help explore either potentially how medical marijuana can affect their conditions in different ways [or] for physicians to get more medically based evidence on the impacts of medical marijuana on treating one of the 21 conditions we have approved right now.”