Tuesday, December 18News That Matters

State blunts Franklin Labs-LECOM medical cannabis research center plan – GoErie.com


Officials rejected all eight applications for growing/processing and dispensary permits as part of the state’s medical marijuana research program.

A Reading-based company that plans to partner with the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine on medical marijuana research will reapply for a permit from the Pennsylvania Department of Health after its initial application was rejected.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health rejected the applications of all eight applicants that sought growing/processing and dispensary permits as part of the state’s medical marijuana research program. Among the applicants was Franklin Labs, which has partnered with the Erie medical school to conduct the research.

“They are disappointed,” LECOM spokesman Pierre Bellicini said in a short statement after talking with Franklin Labs officials. “Franklin Labs is working on the next step and they plan to apply again.”

The health department rejected Franklin Labs’ application because it failed to include a valid contractual relationship with an academic research center, according to a letter the health department sent Tuesday to Franklin Labs CEO Berchard Suber.

Franklin Labs’ contract with LECOM was considered invalid because it was signed before the medical school had been certified as an academic clinical research center in the state’s medical marijuana program. LECOM was certified in May.

Two other applicants were rejected for the same reason. Others were rejected for failing to include a dispensary application and required fees, for failing to meet minimum application scores or for not following directions, philly.com reported.

“Our goal is to ensure that our research program operates at the highest standards,” Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levine, M.D., said in a news release. “We are disappointed that awards were not made, but must uphold the standards set out in the regulations.”

The research program is part of Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Law and was revised, after a Commonwealth Court judge issued a preliminary injunction in May, to require health department approval of the companies with whom each school partners, philly.com reported.

State officials said the program would put Pennsylvania among the leaders in medical marijuana research but current licensees have said they worry it’s just another way companies can secure permits without going through the rigorous application process they did.

Each company that receives a permit could grow marijuana and open as many as six dispensaries in the state.

“We’re all in for medical research. But this doesn’t seem like medical research as much as a mechanism for organizations to circumvent the application process we underwent,” GTI CEO Pete Kadens said earlier this year.

GTI owns and operates Rise Erie, Erie’s only legal medical marijuana dispensary.

A group of growers and dispensary operators in Pennsylvania filed a lawsuit Nov. 27 against the health department. The group, known as Medical Marijuana Advocates for Research, said they believe the law’s revisions regarding the research program still don’t make the vetting process transparent enough.

David Bruce can be reached at 870-1736 or by email. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ETNbruce.

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