As the industry begins to erupt, research to explain the impact of marijuana physically, emotionally, economically and socially is in its infancy, a void a Somerville firm wants to begin filling.
“One of the most commonly heard statements in the industry is that we need more research,” said Dr. Marion McNabb, a physician and CEO and co-founder of the Cannabis Community Care and Research Network (“C3RN”), of Somerville.
“We at ‘C3RN’ intend to develop mechanisms to engage the community in participatory research to contribute to the evidence base and translate findings into practice,” she said in an email Monday. (see Q&A below)
C3RN announced the plan to do research June 20 with AmeriCann Inc., a company based in Denver, Colorado that Reuters says handles consulting, design, construction and financing for marijuana businesses.
AmeriCann and C3RN will do research to improve the understanding about the therapeutic benefits of marijuana and the product offerings. Also involved in the research will be BASK Inc., a medical marijuana facility in Fairhaven, Massachusetts with ties to AmeriCann.
That’s according to Morningstar.com, a firm based in Chicago, Illinois that provides investment research in North America, Europe, Australia, and Asia, its website said.
C3RN led a forum here May 29 on marijuana’s potential to replace opioids for pain relief.
The C3RN-AmeriCann announcement comes as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first prescription drug whose ingredients include marijuana. Epidiolex will treat two rare forms of epilepsy that begin in childhood, as reported Monday by The Associated Press (AP).
In a sign of the complexity of what marijuana offers, and which supporters say underscores the need for research, the ingredient used in Epidiolex is a purified form of a chemical found in the cannabis plant but is not the one that gets users high, AP reported.
“It’s not yet clear why the ingredient, called cannabidiol, or CBD, reduces seizures in some people with epilepsy,” AP reported.
Marijuana sales are projected to hit $450 million in Massachusetts this year, and in Colorado, which began permitting retail sales of marijuana in January 2014, the figure is expected to hit $1.3 billion in 2018. That’s according to a presentation made at a forum in Hancock in the Berkshires June 14 by Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr., a former state senator and the co-founder of the Berkshire Roots medical marijuana dispensary that opened in March in Pittsfield.
AmeriCann is building a 53-acre “Massachusetts Medical Cannabis Center” in the Bristol County town of Freetown, Massachusetts.
The plan is for the facility of nearly 1 million square feet to include multiple tenants opening businesses in phases for medical cannabis cultivation and processing. BASK is scheduled to be the first tenant.
AmeriCann bought the land in Freetown in fall 2016 for nearly $4.5 million from Boston Beer Company, the makers of Samuel Adams.
Relationships such as C3RN working with AmeriCann are necessary to mount comprehensive explorations into the effects and benefits of marijuana using sophisticated research techniques, McCann said.
“There is a lot known about cannabis and its potentially useful medical benefits. In some cases the evidence is conclusive, and other cases we still need further inquiry,” she said.
Increased availability of marijuana products from edibles to oils has yet to be accompanied by findings on its effects, a national report said.
“The growing acceptance, accessibility, and use of cannabis raise important public health concerns, and there is a clear need to establish what is known and what needs to be known about the health effects of cannabis use,” said the 2017 report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.
C3RN is a marijuana industry consultant and advocate. The organization describes itself on its website as “a group of like minded cannabis industry, advocacy, academic, public health, clinical, patient, policy, and community experts that embrace open-source principles to drive collaborative science in the cannabis industry.”
Here’s The Republican’s Q&A with Dr. Marion McNabb, a physician and CEO and co-founder of the Cannabis Community Care and Research Network (C3RN) of Somerville:
Q: What kinds of areas specifically will such research explore? For instance, at the (C3RN) forum in Holyoke, it was discussed that possibly certain strains of marijuana were more effective in addressing certain illnesses.
A: We (C3RN and AmeriCann) are in the process of developing a full research plan that will cover studying various aspects of cannabis and its impact on health, social, and economic outcomes over the next few months as AmeriCann applies for a cannabis research. This partnership will seed the start of the community information and data analytic resource that C3RN plans to expand to many partners to better understand cannabis users and patients while improving the quality of services. As a collaboration, C3RN and AmeriCann will also be doing research related to cultivation and extraction, identifying optimal techniques, approaches, and best practices that can be shared with the wider cannabis community. We will also be exploring innovative ways to collect and share data through digital research tools. Other projects that C3RN and AmeriCann plan to work on include C3RN providing access to the latest scientific and clinical information available in the literature for AmeriCann and partner Bask to utilize when planning cultivation, research, and development activities.
Q: Will both companies be doing the actual research — interviewing people, pouring over files, etc.?
A: C3RN will be the primary research lead in the partnership, working to ensure appropriate study designs are implemented and ethical approval and review of research studies is facilitated. Future academic partnerships will be founded on discovery, product innovation, and open leadership to raise the bar in the cannabis industry in Massachusetts. We hope that models and data resulting from this partnership co-developed with other partners in MA will pave the way for a participatory driven cannabis research industry in Massachusetts.
Q: When will the researching begin and when will findings be released?
A: AmeriCann and C3RN have immediately started on developing a full research agenda for the partnership, including, what are the main areas of research, and who are the additional partners we will work with on future studies. C3RN will be announcing additional research partners over the next few weeks.
Q: Please discuss how doing such research is beneficial to the public?
A: There is a lot known about cannabis and its potentially useful medical benefits. In some cases the evidence is conclusive, and other cases we still need further inquiry. C3RN utilizes the Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids Report authored by the National Academies of Sciences, Medicine and Engineering as a base for all future cannabis research inquiry. For the last 70 years, academics and the cannabis industry have faced serious regulatory and funding hurdles that have prohibited the advancement of medical research on cannabis. The report shows the barriers and proposed directions for the academic industry, including providing recommendations for future inquiry.
State (of Massachusetts) is taking the initiative to open source their data. Dr. Julie Johnson, the new research director at the Cannabis Control Commission, also recently announced the CCC plans on supporting the open use of data collected under their licensing program. We hope that the C3RN supported community driven data resource will support the CCC and larger community efforts to advance cannabis science through a variety of innovative research partnerships. One of the most commonly heard statements in the industry is that we need more research. We at C3RN intend to develop mechanisms to engage the community in participatory research to contribute to the evidence base and translate findings into practice.