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Thomas Jefferson University Receives $3 Million Marijuana Research Grant

Although more than half of US states have legalized marijuana for medical use only now is the nation's first research facility for medical marijuana opening.

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With a $3 million grant from Australian philanthropists Barry and Joy Lambert, Thomas Jefferson University has established a new medical center for cannabis education and research. The new facility, officially named The Lambert Center for the Study of Medicinal Cannabis and Hemp, will become the first such medical research center in the United States, according to information released by the university.

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The donation comes at a pivotal time for the marijuana industry in the U.S. A total of 28 states and the District of Columbia have approved the possession and use of medicinal marijuana. That number includes four of the five most populous states: California, Florida, Illinois and New York.

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“We are extremely grateful to the Lamberts for the bold and visionary gift, which will have an immediate impact on our research and education efforts,” Charles Pollack Jr., direction of the university’s Institute of Emerging Health Professions, said in a prepared statement.

Research Focus

Founded in 1824, Thomas Jefferson University is a private school with just under 2,000 students (844 of whom are postgraduate students) located in the Washington Square area of Philadelphia. The school focuses on the health sciences, including biomedical science, nursing, pharmacy and population health.

The money will support research into the therapeutic potential of medicinal marijuana and a range of cannabinoids derived from marijuana. The Lambert Center also will research potential health benefits of hemp, which has long been used for paper, cord and textiles.

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According to a message from Pollack on the university website, the center’s goals include:

  • Providing expert, unbiased information about the medical uses of marijuana, hemp extract and cannabinoids to clinicians and patients
  • Conducting research and serving as a hub for multinational research to evaluate “and elevate” the evidence basis for cannabinoid therapy in a variety of medical conditions
  • Providing “best-in-breed” support for development of entrepreneurial and socially responsible medical marijuana businesses and clinical approaches

The gift, formalized at a private gathering on Dec. 6, is the second such gift the Lamberts have made. In 2015, the couple made a $33.7 million gift for cannabis research at the University of Sydney in Australia.

Barry Lambert founded Count Financial, the largest network of accounting-based firms in Australia.

Personal Reasons for Donation

The Lamberts support medicinal marijuana research because of the experience of their granddaughter, Katelyn. She was diagnosed with Dravet’s syndrome, a genetic condition that affects the brain’s ability to send electronic signals and can cause severe seizures.

The Lamberts said that hemp-based medical marijuana provided relief for Katelyn. The pair hope the donations can lead to further research into medical uses for marijuana and provide relief to others.

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"We have directly experienced the miraculous life-saving benefits of medicinal cannabis derived from hemp,” Barry Lambert said, according to the university.  “We are confident that working under modern U.S. regulations, TJU and its innovative, scientific approach will prove to the medical profession the benefits and safety of medicinal cannabis for a broad range of illnesses, not just childhood epilepsy."

Stephen Klasko, president and CEO of Thomas Jefferson University, said the school is approaching the emerging medical marijuana industry “like a start-up would, and this gift represents its first round of angel funding.”