Weed Science: Clever Leaves will provide US researchers with up to $ 25 million worth of cannabis grown at its facility in Pesca, Colombia
Courtesy of Clever Leaves
Cannabis and other drugs have been illegally smuggled into the United States from Colombia for decades, but global cannabis breeder Clever Leaves, who operates a cultivation facility in the Andes, plans to import $ 25 million worth of pharmaceutical marijuana to help researchers in the USA to supply US
Clever Leaves, which has 1.8 million square feet of growing space in 18 greenhouses in Pesca, Colombia, has partnered with California-based Biopharmaceutical Research Company, licensed by the US Drug Enforcement Administration, to legally import cannabis. Clever Leaves will supply federally approved researchers to study cannabis for future development of new pharmaceutical therapies and drugs.
Kyle Detwiler, CEO of Clever Leaves, says the company hopes to advance the science of cannabis as a pharmaceutical product. “Cannabis doesn’t belong on List I, it’s time to change that,” says Detwiler, pointing out that marijuana is listed in the federal government’s most restrictive categories.
Clever Leaves and Biopharmaceutical Research Company are collecting proposals from researchers at universities, pharmaceutical companies, and nonprofits studying the therapeutic potential of cannabis. A panel of experts including doctors and professors from Duke, Johns Hopkins, the University of California Los Angeles, and other universities will approve projects in the coming weeks. Clever Leaves, trading on the Nasdaq with a market capitalization of $ 256 million, is committed to providing up to 250,000 bottles of pharmaceutical grade THC oil or nearly five tons of medicinal cannabis flowers for this initiative.
Thanks to the federal cannabis ban, conducting marijuana research is extremely difficult and fraught with regulatory barriers, which has resulted in very little hard scientific data on the therapeutic benefits of cannabis.
George Hodgin, a former Navy SEAL who founded the Biopharmaceutical Research Company in 2017, says there is ample anecdotal evidence about the therapeutic benefits of cannabis and its health effects, but the US is lagging miserably in research.
“In fact, every product that people put into their bodies today has been rigorously tested and researched ad nauseam,” says Hodgin. “But cannabis is the opposite. It is widely used and widely accepted. This project aims to lay the foundations in the research community on which drugs could ultimately be manufactured. ”
Hodgin says research on public safety and policies related to cannabis is also needed. Without research into things like cannabis use and driving, the effects of secondhand smoke, or the appropriate limits for pesticides used to grow smokable products, lawmakers cannot currently legislate based on science and data.
“All the important questions that cannot be answered easily in any other industry have not yet been answered in the USA,” he says. “The research community can answer many of the questions that are becoming more meaningful every day as the US liberalizes its stance on cannabis.”
Currently, more than 30 states have legalized some form of medical marijuana and 18 states have legalized its use by adults.
For over 50 years, the only legal domestic source of research-grade cannabis has been the National Center for the Development of Natural Products at the University of Mississippi, which has a contract with the National Institute on Drug Abuse. But in May, the DEA announced that it had given some American companies permission to grow cannabis for academic and scientific study. (Hodgin’s company is one of the newly sanctioned companies under the DEA program.)
The DEA’s registration of pharmaceutical-grade cannabis manufacturing companies is significant, but the conflict between federal and state medical marijuana and adult markets law remains. The result is strange and counterintuitive: a researcher studying cannabis in a state where it is legal cannot legally obtain a product from a pharmacy to study because researchers must obtain federal permits to use marijuana. This means that researchers must obtain cannabis from a state-legal source.
What makes the import of a government illegal drug like marijuana from Colombia to the US is the fact that Colombia has legalized medical marijuana, Clever Leaves has a license to grow in Colombia, and the Biopharmaceutical Research Company has a license to import and handle substances from List I has. “Cannabis needs to stay within a federally closed loop,” says Hodgin.
Interest in the research-based therapeutic value of cannabis has increased. In February, Jazz Pharmaceuticals announced it would acquire GW Pharma, which made Epidiolex, the first US FDA-approved marijuana drug, for $ 7.2 billion. In early June, the National Football League and the NFL players’ union announced that they would be giving up to $ 1 million in grants to fund research into how cannabis could be used to treat pain and potentially replace opioid-based pain relievers.
Clever Leaves makes the cannabis available to licensed researchers free of charge upfront, but if the research leads to commercialization, the company gets a share of the intellectual property.
“We’re a for-profit company and I have shareholders who I’m responsible for, so for me success encompasses both scientific advancement and commercial advancement,” says Detwiler.