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State opens second round of applications for medical marijuana research

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The Pennsylvania Department of Health is trying once again to start up its medical marijuana research program, which has been beset by legal challenges.

The state will be accepting applications through April 11 for marijuana growers, processors and dispensaries that will work with research centers to prepare marijuana for research purposes.

It is the second time the state has asked for applications for what are called clinical registrants.

The research program has had trouble getting off the ground. The department declined the first group of applicants for failing to meet state regulations and the program as a whole is facing a legal challenge.

The research program, laid out by the 2016 medical marijuana law, delegates eight colleges and hospitals as academic clinical research centers. Those centers choose partners, known as clinical registrants, that are tasked with providing marijuana for research purposes.

Only clinical registrants that have contracted with research centers can file for an application with the state. The potential clinical registrants are judged by the health department based on their diversity plans, operational plans, community impact, organization, ownership, capital and tax status.

The research program is being challenged by a group of medical marijuana permit holders who claim that registrants chosen by the research centers do not have to go through the same rigorous vetting process as they did to get a medical marijuana permit.

The permit holders argue that the research centers should pick their clinical registrants from a list of pre-approved applicants that already have been permitted by the state.

In a press release, Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said the registrants and their clinics have the potential to provide research that will help cancer patients, veterans and sufferers of opioid addiction.

“We are looking forward to working with high-quality clinical registrants who will ensure that the research portion of the medical marijuana program is second to none,” Levine said.

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Ioannis Pashakis

Ioannis Pashakis

Ioannis Pashakis covers health care and Lancaster County. Email him at ipashakis@cpbj.com.

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