The Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM) will partner with the Florida-based cannabis company Cansortium Health Partners to conduct research on medical marijuana, school officials said Friday.

At PCOM's campus on City Avenue, the college's scientists and educators will design studies and analyze observational data collected from patients at Cansortium medical marijuana dispensaries. PCOM researchers plan to investigate the drug's ability to treat anxiety, depression, and chronic pain, said Mindy George-Weinstein, a professor who serves as the school's chief research and science officer.

"We were approached by at least eight national companies, and we're still getting phone calls," said George-Weinstein. "We interviewed five, and I have to say they were all quite good and committed to the research mission. But there was a certain je ne sais quoi about Cansortium that instilled confidence and convinced us they would be the best partner."

The Pennsylvania Department of Health last year awarded a permit to Cansortium to open three medical marijuana dispensaries in Pennsylvania. The company currently has one retail store in York County, which operates under the name Knox Medical. It has seven dispensaries in Florida and one in Puerto Rico.

Pennsylvania law allows eight of the state’s health-care systems — called Academic Clinical Research Centers (ACRCs) —  to pair with marijuana companies,  which are referred to in the law as Clinical Registrants (CRs). The partnerships are expected to be lucrative. The companies, which will grow and process marijuana, will also be allowed to operate up to six retail dispensaries. George-Weinstein declined to discuss the funding arrangements with Cansortium, other than to say that five principal investigators already are lined up to work on cannabis-related projects, including scientist Frederick Goldstein, who has conducted research into post-operative and chronic pain for 35 years.

In May, the health department approved five Philadelphia medical schools to become ACRCs: those of Thomas Jefferson University, the University of Pennsylvania, Temple University, Drexel University, and PCOM. But a lawsuit challenged the state research program, forced the Department of Health to rewrite regulations, and has required all of the institutions to reapply to be part of the program.

PCOM's partnership with Cansortium, like all academic pairings, is contingent on approval by the Department of Health. The department began to accept applications from the schools this week. Applications from the marijuana companies won't be submitted until November.

Research at PCOM, which will involve student scientists, will begin as soon as the permits for the school and Cansortium are granted, George-Weinstein said.

Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM)
PCOM
Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM)