By: Judith Cassel and Melissa Chapaska
Microsoft Corp. and Arrow Electronics, both Fortune 150 companies, are among the large mainstream companies that have teamed up with marijuana-related businesses, over the last 30 days, to develop products and grow profits in the nascent marijuana industry. The advent of mainstream companies entering the marijuana industry demonstrates the change in perception of marijuana. “I believe we are going to see many more mainstream companies brave enough to explore getting into the cannabis industry, especially over the next 30 days,” said Tom Quigley, CEO of the Gluu, an online service serving the marijuana industry.
The marijuana industry is making vast strides at an exponential rate in changing the image of doing business in the marijuana space. There are several keys that could help to continue this image-changing initiative. The first key initiative would be for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to “reschedule” or “de-schedule” marijuana. The second key initiative would be to increase participation of universities and healthcare facilities in the research and validation of the uses of marijuana for medicinal purposes.
The DEA’s rescheduling of marijuana means that it would be removed from the list of Schedule 1 substances deemed “most dangerous drugs.” Marijuana shares a spot on Schedule 1 with LSD and heroin. Over the last 12 months, DEA has faced increasing pressure to reschedule marijuana. Twenty-five states and Washington DC have legalized the use of marijuana in some form. Fifty-eight percent of Americans now say marijuana use should be legal. On July 13, 2016, the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate, via the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism, held a hearing on the potential medical benefits and risks of marijuana. The DEA itself has published an announcement stating that it will soon consider whether to reschedule marijuana. Legally being on Schedule 1 means that marijuana has a “high potential for abuse” and “no currently accepted medical use.”
Medical use has been the driving force behind states’ marijuana legalization and the states’ legalization has been the driving force behind pressuring the federal government to remove marijuana from Schedule 1. Therefore, continued research into the medical uses of marijuana goes hand-in-hand with rescheduling and both will help to reimage the marijuana industry.
The benefits of medical marijuana have been studied world-wide with surprising and optimistic results. The University of California San Francisco’s research determined that medical marijuana can have a significant positive effect in the treatment of burning pain from diabetes and spinal cord injuries. In a British study, 42% of the patients with multiple sclerosis experienced relief from debilitating muscle spasms when treated with the non-psychoactive compound cannabidiol, commonly known as CBD. One of the most hopeful research projects is New York University’s study into children’s epilepsy, where strawberry-flavored oil containing CBD is being tested with astounding results.
Pennsylvania is perfectly positioned to further this important medical marijuana research. Pennsylvania has recently passed a Medical Marijuana Act (“Act”) that specifically establishes a “research program to study the impact of medical marijuana on the treatment and symptom management of serious medical conditions.” Pursuant to the Act, the Pennsylvania Department of Health (PA DOH) will assign specific serious medical conditions to a “DEA approved”, “vertically-integrated health system and university within the Commonwealth” (Research Institution). There will be permits given to eight Research Institutions, each may have up to six separate locations where patients may be seen, provided with medical marijuana, and be part of a research project.  It is noteworthy to mention that Marijuana research is not currently illegal under federal law, so long as the applicable DEA rules, guidelines, and regulations are followed. Many universities in Pennsylvania have already legally conducted research projects centering on the effects of marijuana.
Having assisted both university and medical institutions with other complex regulatory schemes, the Cannabis Law PA lawyers are uniquely qualified to assist similar institutions with navigating the regulatory landscape created by the new Medical Marijuana Act.
 Omar Sacirbey, Marijuana Stigma Receding Among Some Big Companies, Marijuana Business Daily, http://mjbizdaily.com/cannabis-stigma-receding-among-big-companies/ (June 28, 2016).
 Jeffrey Jones, In U.S., 58% Back Legal Marijuana Use, Gallup, http://www.gallup.com/poll/186260/back-legal-marijuana.aspx (Oct. 21, 2015).
 United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Reseraching the Potential Medical Benefits and Risks of Marijuana, http://www.judiciary.senate.gov/meetings/researching-the-potential-medical-benefits-and-risks-of-marijuana (last accessed July 13, 2016).
 Karen Cicero, How Effective Is Medical Marijuana? Here’s A Closer Look At 14 Different Uses, Prevention http://www.prevention.com/health/14-uses-medical-marijuana (April 22, 2015).
 FACES (Finding a Cure for Epilepsy and Seizures), Cannabidiols: Potential Use in Epilepsy & Other Neurological Disorders Conference, available at http://faces.med.nyu.edu/research-education/cannabidiol-conference (last accessed July 14, 2016).
 The Medical Marijuana Act § 1901(a) (April 17, 2016).
 Id. § 1901.
 Id. § 2002.
 U.S. Food and Drug Administration, FDA and Marijuana, http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/PublicHealthFocus/ucm421163.htm (last accessed July 14, 2016).