Marijuana Legalization Landscape pot

A marijuana plant is visible at Compassionate Care Foundation's medical marijuana dispensary in Egg Harbor Township, N.J.

On Wednesday, Denver issued its first medical marijuana research and development license — and the first in Colorado — that allows businesses to grow, cultivate, possess, manufacture and transfer marijuana for research.

Denver’s Department of Excise and Licenses issued the license to MedPharm, whose CEO, Albert Gutierrez, had applied to test delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabidiol (CBD) and other cannabinoids’ effects on patients with Alzheimer’s and dementia. After years in the making, Gutierrez, a Denver native, said he is “excited” to get to work.

“The reason why it’s so important is because, you know, everybody hears about the anecdotal evidence of how cannabis helps patients,” he said, but, “it’s really important to understand why and how … and so this license allows us to do that now.”

Because research into medical marijuana has been hindered by federal regulations that classify the plant as a Schedule 1 controlled substance, the Colorado legislature passed House Bill 1367 in 2017, which authorized licensing for medical marijuana clinical research and gave municipalities the choice to implement it.

At least one city in Colorado, Pueblo, is already offering this license, said Eric Escudero, the spokesperson for Denver's Department of Excise and Licenses. But Denver City Council didn't give the OK until April to open city-level applications.

“Denver’s now created the framework to be the leader and become a research hub for cannabis, which is huge,” Gutierrez told Colorado Politics in a phone interview. “We will now be able to conduct clinical trials with patients using placebos and actives to actually carry out research that we’ve been planning to do.”  

“The possibilities are endless with the first of hopefully many medical marijuana research and development licenses issued in Denver,” Ashley Kilroy, the executive director of Denver's Department of Excise and Licenses, said in a statement. “Our hope is that this new license type will lead to effective treatments for cancer, Alzheimer’s, and other debilitating diseases so the full promise of legalized marijuana can be fulfilled.”

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