Ode to Mount Joy, Part II

Something smells about Temple’s decision to build marijuana grow facility in Lancaster County — and it ain’t the weed.

(Photo Left) Controversies and rumors abound about the motivations of Cozen O'Connor in its writing of the Medical Marijuana Act. Ilustratrion by LCP staff.

Can a law written by a law firm be, at the same time, designed to drive millions of dollars to that law firm’s client and also a forward thinking piece of legislation designed to place Pennsylvania at the forefront of emerging medical research?  When it comes to the PA Medical Marijuana Act, the answer appears to be yes.  But just because a law does good things doesn’t mean we should take our eyes off those who wrote it and who they wrote it for. This is the conundrum that is Temple University and Chapter 20 of the Act.

In the days leading up to passage of the Act, rumors swirled around Harrisburg about a powerful politically connected law firm writing parts of the legislation to benefit its clients.  The story went that the law firm, Cozen O’Connor, was writing Chapter 20 to create a subset of marijuana grow/processor licenses — ones that, unlike the 25 regular grow/processor licenses, would be vertically integrated with 6 dispensary licenses into one jumbo license.

These 8 Chapter 20 licenses would be awarded to groups called clinical registrants (CRs) that have “a contractual relationship with” something called an academic clinical research center (ACRC) defined as “an accredited medical school within this Commonwealth that operates or partners with an acute care hospital.”  The rationale behind the state’s creation of CRs and ACRCs and their contract relationship — entities and relationships contemplated in no other medical marijuana legislation in the country — was to give our state first mover advantage in the field of patient-based research on the use of marijuana in the treatment of disease and pain.

The thinking goes like this: Because marijuana at the federal level remains illegal, no health system with a medical school receiving any federal funding would be allowed to touch the marijuana plant; therefore, none would be able to study the medical efficacy of cannabis. If PA medical schools could create an arms-length agreement with grower/processors (call them CRs), such that they could do research through their dispensaries but not touch the plant, they could begin to study marijuana in the U.S. years before any other universities. All of that research could be monetized for the benefit of the universities.

For the marijuana advocates attempting to secure enough votes for passage, Chapter 20 became the tipping point; the hook for conservative Republican legislators to vote for a piece of marijuana legislation that would bring forth groundbreaking medical research rather than a stepping-stone to recreational use.

And to the uncynical eye, that is where the story ends. But when you peel away the onion’s layers, the uncynical eye begins to see a less public-minded, more private pocket, scheme at play.

The O’Connor in Cozen O’Connor just happens to be Pat O’Connor, chairman of the board of Temple University. The CR that Temple University has chosen to partner with is a client of — you guessed it — Cozen O’Connor. Its a client with no marijuana grow, processing, or dispensing experience; a client that intends to build its grow facility in Mount Joy Lancaster County rather than in Temple’s backyard (see LCP’s Ode to Mount Joy, Part 1). A client that stands to get one of the 8 jumbo grow licenses without even submitting its application for scoring in the Phase 1 grow application process (unlike Franklin Labs and Prime Wellness, both winning applicants in the Southeast region for Phase 1 grow licenses holding CR agreements with ACRCs).

Since Temple does not recognize the apparent conflict of interest inherent in awarding its CR to a client of its board chairman, it requires the accounting that Congressman Brady, Councilwoman Quiñones-Sánchez, and Senator Street have called for.

Temple — a state affiliated university paying no local property taxes — continues to refuse to demand that its CR build its $10 million facility, with 70 full time jobs, in North Philly rather than Lancaster County. It certainly makes Chapter 20 look much more like legislation designed to line someone’s pockets than to deliver much needed medical research.


Ode to Mount Joy, Part II

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Liberty City Press is an independent weekly newspaper distributed by the Philadelphia Multi-Cultural Media Network whose members include Philadelphia Sunday Sun, The Philadelphia Gay News, Al Dia, The Metro Chinese Weekly and The Metro Viet News.

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