ATLANTA and PITTSBURGH – The University of Pittsburgh and Parallel, a company that is pioneering human well-being through its proprietary cannabinoid brands, science and technology-led innovation, announced a relationship to establish a clinical research program to study medical marijuana. As part of a 10-year agreement, Parallel, through Goodblend, its new global retail brand, will provide University of Pittsburgh an initial $3 million in unrestricted grants to be used for the exploration of the efficacy and safety of medical cannabis with an initial focus on treating sickle cell disease symptoms. Parallel will also dispense cutting-edge cannabis formulations to research study participants. Subsequent research will address other chronic conditions, most notably generalized anxiety disorders and chronic intractable pain.
The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine (Pitt) is one of eight Pennsylvania academic research universities approved to conduct clinical research in association with the commonwealth’s medical marijuana program. With Pennsylvania’s approval of this medical cannabis research partnership, Parallel was also granted a license for vertically -integrated operations to grow and process cannabis and open up to six retail locations across the state.
“The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine sees great value in the partnership with Parallel for the residents of the commonwealth and beyond,” said Anantha Shekhar, senior vice chancellor for health sciences and the John and Gertrude Petersen Dean of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. “Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana law emphasizes the need for rigorous research related to the use of medical cannabis,” Shekhar continued. “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.”
“Parallel is honored to be the medical cannabis partner of the University of Pittsburgh. Their position as one of the leading global medical research institutions will assist us in advancing our medical understanding of the benefits of cannabinoids in treating a wide spectrum of diseases and conditions,” said William “Beau” Wrigley, Jr., Parallel chief executive officer. “Parallel is pioneering the development of cannabis therapies through strategic partnerships with leading institutions such as the University of Pittsburgh. We believe that research is essential to optimize the targeted benefits of cannabinoids as they hold great promise to replace pharmaceuticals for numerous conditions. We are honored to have been selected to provide the patients of Pennsylvania with our therapies to help improve their well-being.”
Pitt will begin its medical marijuana research program with a clinical trial in patients who suffer from sickle cell disease (SCD). This program will be led Dr. Laura DeCastro MD, Associate Professor of Medicine and Director of Clinical Translational Research for the Sickle Cell Disease Research Center of Excellence. The trial will investigate what role cannabis can play in treating the symptoms of SCD, a red blood cell disorder characterized by anemia and pain due to the obstruction of blood vessels by rigid and adhesive red blood cells. Approximately 100,000 Americans suffer from SCD, which is associated with a median life expectancy of 45 years and which disproportionately affects African Americans. About 15% of sickle cell patients suffer chronic pain, which is typically treated with opioids. This class of drugs often fails to completely control pain and comes with serious side effects. Pain and other clinical complications are responsible for frequent hospitalizations of those with SCD and lifetime undiscounted health care costs amount to nearly $1 million per patient.
“Patients with sickle cell disease and chronic pain have no real alternative to chronic opioid therapy, which has severe limitations and disadvantages,” said Laura DeCastro, MD, MBBS and Pitt associate professor of medicine, director of benign hematology for the Institute for Transfusion Medicine and UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, and director of Clinical Translational Research for the Sickle Cell Disease Research Center of Excellence. “We are proud to have this opportunity to study potential cannabis treatments for these patients who live in constant debilitating pain.”
“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.”
About the University of Pittsburgh
A nonsectarian, coeducational, state-related, public research university founded in 1787, the University of Pittsburgh (Pitt) is a member of the prestigious by-invitation-only Association of American Universities and internationally renowned as a leading center of learning and research in the arts, sciences, humanities, professions and health sciences. Comprising a Pittsburgh campus, which is home to 16 undergraduate, graduate and professional schools, and four Western Pennsylvania regional campuses, Pitt offers nearly 500 distinct degree programs and confers more than 8,500 degrees annually. Pitt has ranked among the top 10 recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health since 1998 and is ranked among the top 10 American research universities nationally in terms of total federal science and engineering research and development obligations. For more information, visit www.pitt.edu.
Parallel is one of the largest privately held, vertically integrated, multi-state cannabis companies in the world with a mission to pioneer well-being and improve the quality of life through cannabinoids. Parallel owns and operates retail dispensaries in four medical and adult-use markets: Surterra Wellness in Florida and Texas; New England Treatment Access (NETA) in Massachusetts, and The Apothecary Shoppe in Nevada. The Company has a diverse portfolio of high quality, proprietary and licensed consumer brands and products including Surterra Wellness, Coral Reefer, and Float. Parallel operates approximately 50 retail stores nationwide, including cultivation and manufacturing sites across the four states. The Company conducts advanced cannabis science through Molecular Infusions (Mi), a cannabis-based biopharmaceutical company, and conducts R&D for new product development in its facilities in Texas, Massachusetts, Florida, and Budapest, Hungary. Parallel follows rigorous operations and business practices to ensure the quality, safety, consistency and efficacy of its products and is building its business by following strong values and putting the well-being of its customers and employees first. For more information: www.liveParallel.com
5 weed products Tommy Chong can’t live without
Tommy Chong exceeds the status of cannabis celebrity. Though he and Cheech were technically the stoner celebs, rising to international stardom in the 1970s by pioneering the genre with their Cheech and Chong franchise, they’ve since surpassed such worldly roles.
50 years later, Chong functions more as a cultural monolith in the weed world and beyond. Like Jesus, Santa Claus, or Jerry Garcia, the mere mention of his name evokes something magical, mythical, and in his case, super stoned. This kind of ascension can only be achieved through a lifetime of hard work, good vibes, and above all else, being a cool fucking dude.
In addition to his Tommy Chong’s line of tinctures, sublingual strips, energy potions, and more, he’s slated to pair back up with Cheech — who’s been busy building his own weed brand, Cheech’s Stash — to open a chain of Cheech and Chong dispensaries in California, starting with San Francisco, then on to Los Angeles.
“On the West Coast, Cheech and Chong are semi-gods,” Chong told Weedmaps. “We’re not fully gods, but we’re semi. So we’re just going to provide the best product we know is out there, and a delivery service in every one of our dispensaries. And we’re also going to provide a fun location to go to. It’s not going to be as, you know, weird as some of them are.”
Ideas for the dispensaries include television screens playing Cheech and Chong movies, “as well as other stoner movies,” nonstop, appearances by the duo, and virtual art shows.
“Cheech is a world-renowned collector of Chicano art,” said Chong. “They’re building a museum in Riverside just for Cheech’s art. So we’re going to have virtual art shows on the screens too,” he paused, “and I’ve got a killer bong collection to display.”
In honor of his new venture(s) in a market he helped create, here are the weed products Tommy Chong can’t live without — straight from the Godfather himself.
“My preferred method of smoking is to use a Chong Bong,” said Chong. “It’s one of my vintage bongs from the nineties. Jason Harris made it for me.”
Jason Harris, famed glass blower and founder of Jerome Baker Designs, got his start apprenticing with glass blowing god Bob Snodgrass in 1991. Since then, Harris has worked with numerous celebrities to create outlandish and wildly high priced smoking creations. For example, the $18,000 nug jar capable of holding a full pound of flower that he blew for Snoop Dogg. “The Chong Bong retails for about $5000 dollars,” said Chong.
“I have this wooden pipe from Germany, and I actually just did a little commercial for it,” said Chong. “It’s a one-hander. There’s a built in lighter and a bowl, you can light it up and smoke and everything all with one hand.”
Tommy Chong’s PurePipes are handcrafted in Erfurt, Germany. Not only can users light and smoke all with one hand, they’re designed specifically for smoking cannabis, with an attention to drawing resistance and volume of the packing chamber.
Chong continued, “It’s great for me, because a lot of time when I’m doing cameos they’ll want to light up. So I just grab my little solo pipe and away I go!”
Tommy Chong’s Infused Strips
“I love my breath strips,” said Chong. “They don’t carry that telltale odor, so you can do them anywhere, in church, in prison, or in court! And the best part is, you can function. You can function all day.”
Tommy Chong’s Infused Strips come in three flavors: Strawnana, Blueberry, and Chocolate Mint. Each sublingual strip hits in about 15 minutes, and packs 10 milligrams THC.
Tommy Chong’s CBD Good Vibes Energy Shot
Though this product hasn’t hit the shelves just yet, I tried one of these little shots and they really work. I felt alert, focused, and not jittery or anxious like I often do after coffee. And the ingredients are even approved by Chong’s uber healthy wife.
“Oh my wife, she’s my tester,” he said. “She is so fussy and so healthy. But she loves that energy drink! She takes ballet, and she’ll do a bottle before she does that. I should be doing it more.”
All weed, literally.
When I asked if there were any strains he was particularly into right now, Chong replied, “Honestly, I’ve lost track of all the strains. When people ask me, I tell them my favorite strain is cannabis. It’s crazy because in the government, people try to treat cannabis like alcohol, or some kind of weird drug, and you can’t. It’s not a drug. It’s a medicine that’s an herb. It grows wild in the forest. The animals love it. It’s a plant that should be respected.”
He continued, “And the people who say it’s a gateway drug, well, those gates can be phenomenal. They can swing you into becoming an artist, or a rapper, or an author, or a conductor. Those gates open to all the creative outlets that exist on this planet. So, as we go along with our dispensaries, we’re going to really educate the people. It’s going to be so much fun. Then, we’re going to make so much money that we’re just going to retire and never have to work again. You’ll see.”
Graphic by David Lozada/Weedmaps
French Committee Pushes for Cannabis Legalization
Throughout all the major cannabis news that has been making headlines in Europe, the U.S., and across the globe over the past ten or so years, France has been almost nowhere in the mix.
A parliamentary committee wants to change that as soon as possible and the members are urging the government to initiate a medical cannabis experiment and figure out the best way to address medical cannabis concerns.
An Urgent Call To Action
The committee made this demand in a document, asking for a budget that would support some kind of experiment surrounding medical cannabis and its potential for legalization.
“It’s very important that funding for the medical cannabis experiment is now integrated into this process,” said Benjamin-Alexandre Jeanroy, CEO of Augur Associates in Paris, back in 2019 regarding the importance of moving forward and making something happen. While France has technically approved such an experiment a year ago through legal channels, there needs to be actual implementation to get something off the ground and into the trial stage so that progress can be monitored.
Robin Reda of the French National Assembly and president of the committee claims that she believes France “has fallen alarmingly behind its European neighbors” in terms of cannabis reform overall. “The bulk of the technical work was done before the health crisis,” Reda added, explaining that she doesn’t believe this delay is due to COVID alone, as there has been plenty of time. She instead blames “bureaucratic blockage” and wonders why the government is not moving forward.
Under the new, experimental program, if it is allowed to get started, as many as 3,000 people could be enrolled to try medical cannabis as treatment. At first, the program would probably be dependent on North American cannabis grows until the government can set up its own grow structure for patients. Advocates would like to see this program get started as early as 2021.
In addition to those on the committee supporting cannabis, 50 doctors, scientists, and patients expressed these same concerns earlier this month in an op-ed published in Le Parisien. They argued that because of the lengthy delay on medical cannabis programs, there is no access for patients, causing those who need medical cannabis to look outside legal channels and turn to the black market. They also argue that the framework has already been laid.
“Two years ago, this officially began within the National Agency for the Safety of Medicines and Health Products (ANSM) at the request of the previous Minister of Health, Agnès Buzyn,” they stated (originally in French) in their op-ed. “Since September 2018, work has then been initiated within a multidisciplinary, scientific committee of the ANSM. They assessed the scientific relevance of providing access to cannabis-based, pharmaceutical standard products for chronically ill patients with little or no relief from their suffering by their treatments.”
While this would only be a small step towards legal cannabis in France, it would definitely be the biggest step that has been taken since a medical cannabis experiment was approved. If this experiment goes forward, it truly could be the start of both medical and recreational cannabis in the European country.
Cannabis During Breast Cancer Treatment: What Are The Benefits?
A cancer diagnosis is a life-changing event. From the confusion of understanding the road ahead to the hectic schedule of treatment protocols and never-ending appointments, many individuals struggle through treatment and beyond.
Amy S., a native of Milwaukee, shared that her breast cancer treatment took a toll not only on her body, but relationships as well. “Exhaustion was an understatement. I didn’t have the brain power or the patience to give to my children, or my husband.” Amy went on to explain that during particularly difficult chemotherapy sessions, while they were targeting her left breast, she had continuous nausea and insomnia. One bright spot, Amy shared, was that a friend passed her some CBD oil.
After discussing combining the oil with her other treatment, she found relief in small doses. “It didn’t fix the fear, but it gave me a little bit of my life back, between vomiting and overthinking.” Amy credits CBD oil with helping her deal with anxiety and pain during treatment. And, she’s not alone.
Well-known organizations like the American Cancer Society have already had frank discussions about the benefits of CBD and cannabis during cancer treatment.
There have been some early clinical trials of cannabinoids in treating cancer in humans and more studies are planned. While the studies so far have shown that cannabinoids can be safe in treating cancer, they do not show that they help control or cure the disease.
Here are five ways cancer patients may use cannabis or CBD oil to alleviate symptoms during cancer treatment:
Anxiety: A cancer diagnosis can bring feelings of uncertainty and tension within the mind and soul. From second-guessing to understanding larger questions around the disease, many patients can experience anxiety and depression. According to Harvard Health, CBD is commonly used to address anxiety. In a 2015 study and analysis, researchers found that CBD oil offered promising treatment for individuals with various anxiety disorders.
Pain: Men and women experiencing cancer treatment often experience pain at injection sites as well as pain after surgery. In a piece for Doximity, Dr. Johnathan Kaplan shared that Marijuana and CBD offered a myriad of after-surgery benefits, including stopping eliminating opioid addiction, increasing appetite, and decreasing pain and side effects such as constipation.
As patients take more opioids for pain, the resulting constipation can cause more pain and the cycle begins anew. That is not an issue with marijuana.
Nausea: The American Cancer Society cites a study where individuals felt relief from symptoms of nausea and vomiting during treatment. In the study, individuals felt that smoking cannabis helped ease episodes of vomiting and nausea brought on by chemotherapy.
Insomnia: Often caused by anxiety or chronic pain that comes with a cancer diagnosis, insomnia can cause patients, a large CBD study from the U.S. National Library of Medicine found that of the 72 patients sampled, anxiety decreased in the first month of introducing CBD in a bedtime routine. Additionally, sleep scores also improved in the first 30 days in over 66.7% of patients.
Overall unease: From helping to balance stress and mood to reducing episodes of depression, Linda A. Parker found in writing her book, Cannabinoids and the Brain, found, “in a survey of nearly 4500 people revealed fewer depressive symptoms in cannabis users than in non-users.”
Even better? Research recently found that cannabinoids (CBs) offered relief for tumor-related symptoms in not just nausea, vomiting and pain for cancer patients, but in attacking the actual tumors.
An April 2019 abstract in the U.S. National Library of Medicine found that CBs may slow tumor growth in breast cancer patients because they are active against estrogen-positive breast cancers, but non estrogen breast cancers as well, (as well as triple-negative breast cancer.) Often given to breast cancer patients in the advanced stages of the disease to slow growth, CBs may also offer relief in earlier stages of cancer as well.
For those experiencing a cancer diagnosis, it’s always best to discuss CBD or cannabis use with your doctor to ensure they have all the up-to-date information of your lifestyle and medicines — especially since CBD or cannabis can interact with medications you may be taking.
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