Proposal could open door for cannabis research in Denver

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DENVER (KDVR) -- Among a maze of breakers and gauges, the people at MedPharm in Denver are working with weed in a different type of glass. 

“We’re really focused on cannabis research and cannabinoid research,” said Tyrell Towle, the director of chemistry and extraction. “It’s an exciting time for anybody that’s interested to jump in and get involved.”

The Denver company has been studying cannabis compounds and potential benefits for diseases like cancer. The door for this type of work is cracked, with little support from the federal government, but a change in city hall could force the door wide open. 

“Any time that there’s an indication of a medical benefit that you could get from a substance or a plant, we should be investigating it,” Towle said. “Cannabis is unique in that it’s had nearly 100 years of prohibition, and while science has advanced during that time, that science hasn’t been applied to cannabis.”

Denver is considering a research and development permit for cannabis. Currently, the state already has a program, but it requires local municipalities to create a permit in order for businesses to do this work independent of dispensaries.

“We have the opportunity now to be at the forefront of research, not just in this country, but in the world,” Towle said.

Currently, if MedPharm wants to do any testing, they have to send their cannabis products to test subjects through a dispensary. Because dispensaries are required to include THC in their products, it eliminates the possibility of including a placebo in these studies. But by cutting out the middle man, Towle says they can go to their customers and subjects directly, allowing for more accurate research through randomized clinical trials.

“It really is about helping people and it really is about giving people options,” Towle said. “There is definitely evidence that cannabinoids could help Alzheimer's patients, so we just want to investigate that further.”

The city’s Excise and Licensing Department will pitch the permit to the city’s Finance and Governance committee on March 17. The proposed ordinance would need full City Council approval and the mayor’s signature to become law. 

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