The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and an Atlanta-based cannabis company have received approval from the Pennsylvania Department of Health for a clinical research program to study medical marijuana.

The 10-year deal between the medical school and Parallel and its subsidiary Goodblend Pennsylvania, will provide $3 million to study the safety and effectiveness of medical cannabis. The first research will into the symptoms of sickle cell disease but will also later include chronic pain and generalized anxiety disorders, according to a news release.

Goodblend and Parallel will be dispensing the cannabis to participants in the research studies.

“Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana law emphasizes the need for rigorous research related to the use of medical cannabis,” said Anantha Shekhar, senior vice chancellor for health sciences and the John and Gertrude Petersen Dean of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. “Pitt is taking a leadership role in conducting that research and we look forward to advancing the safety and efficacy of cannabis therapies via scientific rigor. Parallel’s focus on the innovation, quality, safety and consistency of its products makes them an ideal partner for Pitt’s research program.”

The first research study will center on how cannabis can treat sickle cell disease, and it is led by Dr. Laura De Castro, director of clinical translational research for the Sickle Cell Disease Research Center of Excellence.

Goodblend and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine are the eighth and final clinical research program to receive approval from the Pennsylvania Department of Health. It’s the first-ever state research program for medical marijuana that pairs an academic clinical research center with a company that is both a certified medical marijuana grower/processor and a dispensary.

“The work already being done by these partners is providing physicians with more evidence-based research to make clinical decisions for their patients,” said Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine in a prepared statement. “This is the cornerstone of our program and the key to our clinically-based, patient-focused program for those suffering with cancer, PTSD and other serious medical conditions.”

Parallel CEO William Wrigley Jr. said in a statement that Parallel works to develop cannabis treatment through partnerships with academic medical centers.

“Our partnership with the University of Pittsburgh aligns with our mission of promoting well-being for all and to provide access and treatment options to communities who need it most,” said Wrigley. “SCD is a devastating disease that has impacted many African American families, both medically and financially, and we are hopeful that our research partnership with Pitt will help to improve outcomes through cannabis.”

Parallel is the former Surterra Wellness, which also in 2019 created the global retail brand GoodBlend that began in Florida. It has operations in Florida, Texas, Nevada and Massachusetts as well as internationally.


By Paul J. Gough for Pittsburgh Business Times