Denver issues Colorado’s first cannabis research license for 2020 dementia study

Denver issues Colorado's first cannabis research license for 2020 dementia study

Just two months after Denver City Council approved the issuing of licenses for cultivating, transferring and manufacturing cannabis products for research purposes, the city has moved forward with approval for one local company to begin studying the impact the plant may have on improving conditions in those with dementia.

And it’s not just a first for the Mile High City. Denver-based MedPharm Holdings has been issued the first medical marijuana research and development cultivation license in the entire state — and it plans to begin performing a 30-patient study by the end of the year, the company’s CEO told Denver Business Journal.

But first it has to get the seeds planted.

“We have not begun growing as of yet, as we had not received the sign off from the city until [Wednesday] night,” CEO Albert Gutierrez said. “We will begin growing plants specific for this study now and we will see those harvest around November.”

That harvest will influence the timing of the study, which Gutierrez said has faced “some challenges” due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

MedPharm is partnering with Littleton-based brain-imaging company Cerescan, another so-far unnamed company that specializes in biomarker analysis to look for substances associated with brain damage and “an esteemed neurologist” who will oversee the study, Gutierrez said.

“We will have 30 patients in the first study with multiple forms of dementia,” Gutierrez explained. “The participants will be broken into three groups — placebo, cannabinoid only and premier product. … We will conduct brain scans and take blood samples throughout the study to monitor the improvement in cognition, memory, demeanor, decision-making ability and caregiver interaction.”

The “premier product” mentioned is a proprietary formula containing both cannabinoids (compounds found in cannabis) and nootropics (substances believed by some to boost cognitive ability), according to Gutierrez.

The City of Denver hopes to leverage 2017 state legislation that approved such research licenses to, among other things, maintain the city’s reputation as a leader in the cannabis space; foster innovation and entrepreneurship; and attract and retain top talent. All of this despite the fact that these studies are technically illegal at the federal level, just like the state’s entire cannabis economy, which first launched as a medical program.

Denver’s department of Excise and Licenses first announced it would propose an ordinance allowing research licenses in February, and that MedPharm would likely be the first company to receive one if it passed. The City Council approved the ordinance on April 13. Colorado’s Marijuana Enforcement Division confirmed to DBJ that MedPharm is the only marijuana research and development cultivation license that has been approved so far.

“The possibilities are endless with the first of hopefully many medical marijuana research and development licenses issued in Denver,” Ashley Kilroy , the city’s Excise and Licenses department’s executive director, said in a prepared 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.”

And as he prepares to get the plants growing and the study going, Gutierrez said he’s always looking for more partners to work with.

“It can be our research projects, or their own study design that they need someone to help execute and create specific dosage forms for,” he said.

2019 Largest Denver-Area Cannabis Companies

Ranked by No. of full-time employees in Denver area Rank Business name No. of full-time employees in Denver area 1 Native Roots Dispensary 456 2 The Green Solution 414 3 LivWell Enlightened Health 376 View This List


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