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PA Reopens Applications For Marijuana Producers Who Want To Supply Researchers

Sarah Kovash
90.5 WESA

Gov. Tom Wolf's administration has reopened the application process for marijuana producers who want to supply the drug to medical researchers to study its “therapeutic or palliative” uses.

The process and guidance have not changed from the first time around, when all eight producers who applied were rejected. In December, the Pennsylvania Department of Health said that six of the submissions were incomplete, and the other two didn’t meet minimum standards.

“The hope is that obviously...that organizations will follow more closely the instructions and that we get quality [applications],” said department spokeswoman April Hutchinson.

Hutchinson said the six medical marijuana producers that turned in incomplete applications were told what information was missing. The two completed submissions that were rejected by the department received a rubric, so they know what areas were deemed substandard.

Producers are required to have research contracts in place with the academic institutions they plan to supply, before they apply. Applications are due April 11.

Hutchinson said with the first round of applications, many of the agreements predated the legislature approving medical marijuana research in Pennsylvania. This violates submission rules.

A group of medical marijuana producers is suing Pennsylvania Department of Health Secretary Rachel Levine over that contract requirement. They argue it's unlawful deregulation

Harrisburg attorney Judith Cassel, who represents the group, said this system creates an environment which "lacks transparency" that’s ripe for "pay-for-play."

“The problem is that the ACRCs [Academic Clinical Research Centers] are the ones in the control,” said Cassel. “We want to have the best of the best. We’re encouraging DOH to make that their goal.”

The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine is one of the eight* academic institutions the health department has approved to conduct medical marijuana research. The school declined to comment on Cassel's criticism and said, "Unfortunately for confidentiality reasons" it could not disclose which marijuana producer it has contracted with.

*An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the number of academic institutions the health department has approved to conduct medical marijuana research. 

Sarah Boden covers health and science for 90.5 WESA. Before coming to Pittsburgh in November 2017, she was a reporter for Iowa Public Radio where she covered a range of issues, including the 2016 Iowa Caucuses.
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