We Are… Advancing Cannabis’ Role in the Health Care Industry

Penn State becomes eighth Pennsylvania university to receive approval for medical cannabis research.

By Andy Wagner

We all know cannabis has medicinal value. We’ve seen it used to treat so many conditions, from mental health to arthritis, we forget that clinical research into this versatile plant is sadly lacking. Many doctors refuse to even consider cannabis as a treatment alternative, citing evidence of its effectiveness as “anecdotal”.

That’s about to change.

Penn State University’s Milton S. Hershey College of Medicine became the eighth Pennsylvania medical school approved by the commonwealth’s Department of Health to conduct research into medical cannabis. They join the ranks of other prestigious medical schools from universities such as Drexel, University of Pennsylvania, Temple, and Thomas Jefferson, who will begin studies into cannabis as a treatment alternative to opioids.

According to a statement from Neil Sharkey, Penn State’s vice president for research, “Penn State College of Medicine has an opportunity to play an integral role in advancing society’s understanding of the medical potential of marijuana and assisting in the development of safe and effective therapies.

“The College of Medicine often investigates emerging therapies to advance our understanding of medical conditions, to develop beneficial treatments and to address unmet societal health needs.”

PA Governor Tom Wolf also said in a statement, “Today, medical research is so limited by the federal government that only a few doctors can even have access to medical marijuana. Pennsylvania’s premier medical schools will be able to help shape the future of treatment for patients who are in desperate need not just here, but across the country.”
Along with making advancements in cannabis research, Pennsylvania is also expanding its eligibility requirements for medical cannabis to include opioid use. This makes Pennsylvania the first state to recognize cannabis as a treatment option for patients suffering from opioid-use disorder.

As the Daily Collegian reported: “By adding opioid-use disorder as an approved medical condition under the program,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said, “we not only give physicians another tool for treatment of this devastating disease, but we allow for research to be conducted on medical marijuana’s effectiveness in treatment.”
As of May 17, Pennsylvania also expanded its list of qualifications for medical cannabis to include neurodegenerative diseases (such as Alzheimer’s disease), terminal illness, and dyskinetic and spastic movement disorders (such as Parkinson’s disease).

Those of us in the cannabis community can, and have, given many instances where cannabis in some form was able to help them. We’ve been shouting it from the rooftops for years, hoping that someday, someone would notice and take it seriously enough to do the research. It would appear this is finally happening. Penn State, along with seven other prestigious universities, is leading the way toward conducting the studies needed to allow physicians to consider cannabis as a treatment option. Legitimate studies like these could help remove the stigma surrounding cannabis and allow it to be used for all the benefits it could provide.