A host of universities have started new medical marijuana studies, looking to further research on how cannabis impacts different health conditions. One university is focusing on how medical marijuana users fare during the height of the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States.
The University of Miami has launched the COVID-19 study because many medical marijuana users share the same traits as those who are most vulnerable to the virus: compromised immune systems and chronic medical conditions.
Denise C. Vidot, an epidemiologist and assistant professor in the University of Miami School of Nursing and Health Studies, said in a news release that the medical marijuana study is needed because “this is a population that we cannot forget about in our joint effort to ‘flatten the curve.'”
How the Miami Medical Marijuana Study Will Work
As with all healthcare patients, medical marijuana users experience delays in the delivery of medical services during the COVID-19 outbreak. The University of Miami medical marijuana study plans to examine how this group of people cope during the health crisis.
The study will gather information anonymously from medical marijuana users through an online survey. Issues the survey will seek information on include:
- Epidemiologic data on their mental and physical health
- Changes in frequency, dose and route of cannabis use patterns based on COVID-19-related closures and updates.
- Whether users are sharing inhaled cannabis products, such as joints and vapes, which could contribute to coronavirus spread
In the news release, Vidot said that “if COVID-19 has taught us anything, it is that population-based data is vital to make informed decisions. So, we are combining our skills to do our part to provide that data.”
A Series of Medical Marijuana Studies in Pennsylvania
In Pennsylvania, eight different schools will launch new medical marijuana studies that are unusual because they are funded by the medical marijuana industry. Kent Vrana, chairman of the department of pharmacology at Penn State College of Medicine in Hershey, said in an interview that the funding structure of the studies attracted the university.
He said that “the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is finding a way to support quality research without using tax dollars.” Part of the state’s medical marijuana legalization law empowers this type of public-private research partnership.
The universities will partner with a clinical registrant – a company that holds a permit in Pennsylvania as a marijuana grower or as a retail dispensary. The schools and the businesses they will work with include:
- Drexel University College of Medicine and Agronomed Biologics, LLC
- Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University and Laurel Harvest Labs LLC
- Penn State College of Medicine and PA Options for Wellness Inc.
- Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University and MLH Explorations LLC
- The Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and Curaleaf PA LLC
- Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine and CannTech PA LLC
- Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine and Organic Remedies Inc.
The University of Pittsburgh is also involved, but has not yet finalized its private partnership.
The research topics for the medical marijuana studies vary by school. For example, part of the Penn State research will involve creating a database of medical marijuana users in the state. The school also plans to research various dosage combinations of the active chemical compounds in cannabis, THC and CBD, through the use of cell cultures and animal studies.