Thomas Shultz is interested in the science behind medical marijuana. An owner of a growing facility in Portland, he has applied to open a dispensary in New Haven or Milford and to study cannabis’ effects on the brain.
“We’re interested in the opportunity for research as to the impact of the medicine on patients that having a center like that would allow us,” he said. “We have chemists and medical doctors and researchers who are affiliated with our company.”
Specifically, Shultz, owner of Connecticut Pharmaceutical Solutions in Portland, wants his team to study the endocannabinoid system, receptors in the brain that react to the active chemicals in marijuana.
“The science is extraordinarily well developed, but once we get down to its usefulness for patients with specific conditions, then we are reduced to anecdotes. … That’s something short of what other individuals would need to have confidence that one of these products would work for them.”
The state Department of Consumer Protection, which administers Connecticut’s medical marijuana program, will accept a petition from just one patient, through its Board of Physicians, to consider adding a disease or condition to the list approved for the drug. In addition to the 11 conditions originally approved by the General Assembly, six more are being considered by Consumer Protection Commissioner Jonathan Harris after voting by the physicians’ board.
Shultz said if he is awarded a license for a dispensary, which would be called Connecticut Pharmaceutical Research Center LLC, he would be able to study patients’ response to the different forms of medical marijuana on various diseases.
Concentrated oils are “certainly the most potent of the products that we produce and they’re probably of most interest right now,” Shultz said. But he added, “I don’t want to prejudge” what form of cannabis works best for a given condition. “I’d much rather do the research.”
Shultz said that research is going on around the world, especially in Italy and Israel, and noted that the seventh European workshop on cannabinoid research was recently held in Sestri Levante, Italy.
“There’s a mechanism in our bodies that allows [marijuana] to interact in extremely powerful ways,” he said. “The external plant-based cannabinoids tend to put our bodies back into balance after an injury, after an illness.”
That may be overstating the evidence, according to Dr. Deepak Cyril D’Souza, a member of the DCP Board of Physicians and professor in the Yale School of Medicine.
He said the endocannabinoid system in the brain produces substances such as anandamide (Ananda means “bliss” in Sanskrit). “Based on the information we have right now, the endocannabinoid system serves as a very important braking mechanism in the brain,” acting on neurotransmitters such as glutamate. “It’s like a feedback loop,” which happens in milliseconds, D’Souza said.
“But when you smoke … marijuana, that’s not what happens.” Cannabis continues to influence the brain “for minutes and sometimes for hours.”
D’Souza, who has voted against adding most of the petitioned conditions, added, “That is not to say there are not some effects of marijuana that are useful,” such as decreasing muscle spasms from multiple sclerosis.
“There are many different ways of manipulating the endocannabinoid system. Marijuana is one of those ways and it may not be the best way of influencing the endocannabinoid system,” he said.
D’Souza said drugs are being developed that would do so more effectively. He acknowledged that “Many people would argue with this point and say you’re just representing the views of the pharmaceutical industry … that would be a cynical view of this.
“We just need to have good evidence” of the positive effects of marijuana, D’Souza said. “I really don’t care who the person is as long as it’s designed well and it goes through a peer-review process.”
Four other south-central Connecticut companies have also applied to open a dispensary, according to the DCP. Harris wants to add three, in New Haven and Fairfield counties, to the existing six. The principals involved are listed on the secretary of the state’s website. The applicants are:
• CT Wellness Group LLC, Glen Greenberg and Joshua Erianger of Guilford, managers.
• Coastal Care LLC of Milford, Stephen Hobart and Ryan Murphy of Branford, members.
• C-3 Ventures LLC of Milford, Thomas Macre of West Haven, manager.
• Hancock Wellness Center LLC, Gerald E. Farrell Jr. of Wallingford, member. While the DCP locates Hancock Wellness Center in Meriden, the secretary of the state’s CONCORD system lists it at the same address in Wallingford as Farrell’s law office. Farrell is former consumer protection commissioner under Gov. M. Jodi Rell.
The cities where the companies are located are not necessarily where the dispensaries would be located. None of the other applicants could be reached for comment. Ten other companies outside the south-central region also applied for dispensary licenses. Each must pay a $1,000 nonrefundable fee.
Harris would not discuss the applicants, beyond issuing a statement saying, “As was our practice during the past selection process for dispensary facilities and producers, to protect the integrity and fairness of the process, we will not release any further information until the review is complete.”
(h/t: new haven register)