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Penn's Perelman School of Medicine has been selected as one of eight medical schools in Pennsylvania to have been approved by Gov. Tom Wolf to begin research on the effects and potential of medical marijuana this past week. Pennsylvania is the first state to implement government-mandated research on cannabis, although Florida and other states are considering designing similar programs of their own. 

Other medical schools approved for this program include Drexel University, Pennsylvania State University, Temple University, and University of Pittsburgh. 

Despite granting government-led research on marijuana, Pennsylvania is still far from legalizing the drug. Marijuana is considered a Schedule I controlled substance with a “high potential for abuse” according to the state government. Because of that, the medical school will be unable to conduct any research on the actual drug itself. Instead, the labs must instead rely on data provided by a partner cannabis company.

News regarding this marijuana research program surfaced in late March, when the state first announced that they were accepting applications from various medical schools in the state to participate in the project. Many were skeptical as to whether or not this plan would actually be implemented, especially after a group of cannabis companies contested the program in court and halted any progress, citing that the vetting process of finding a partner cannabis company would result in unfair practices. 

Now that Penn Med is officially approved by the state to begin research, the next step will be finding a company to partner with. Although Penn originally planned to partner with PalliaTech — a Massachusetts-based company now called Curaleaf — details are now murky after the May court case, in which the group of cannabis companies filed a complaint.

Drexel and Temple have already announced that they would partner with Acreage Holdings and Laurel Harvest Labs, respectively. 

More developments are likely to occur in the coming months regarding the program, but the medical schools involved stated they are hopeful that this project could unveil many of the uncertainties currently facing the medical marijuana industry. 

“We believe that the research will be of great importance in determining the safety and efficacy of medical cannabis products in treating specific diseases,” said the University of Pittsburgh in a statement.