The University of Mississippi and the Mississippi Cannabis Patients Alliance (MCPA) have announced a joint partnership with the Releaf app to collaborate on marijuana research.
The Releaf app allows patients to document their experiences and record and track side effects they experience using medical cannabis and CBD, as well as other cannabis derived products.
The University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy has been researching marijuana since 1968 and for decades was the only federally legal marijuana growing institution.
“Research interests include studies of the botanical, pharmacological and chemical properties of the cannabis plant,” reads the School of Pharmacy website.
Although the Mississippi Medical Cannabis Act, passed by the state legislature and signed into law by Gov. Tate Reeves in February 2022, allows patients with a legal prescription to consume medical marijuana, it is still illegal to do so on campus. Because the university receives federal funding – and marijuana remains an illegal, controlled substance under federal law – this policy is difficult to change.
“Until our national federal laws are changed, these policies will remain in place. There’s a lot of work to be done on a national level,” Angie Calhoun, founder and CEO of the MCPA, said. “Let’s think of an epileptic patient. What if they’re your brightest student ever, but he or she struggles with epilepsy and no other medications are working? Medical cannabis could and probably would. Are you going to prohibit that child from getting the education that they deserve?”
Calhoun went on to detail how the partnership will bolster marijuana research efforts.
“The University of Mississippi is working with us as a nonprofit patient advocacy group and with the Releaf app to collect patient data anonymously so that we can start our research through our state program and be able to analyze that data within the laws properly through the University of Mississippi. We truly feel like we’ll be able to make history not only in Mississippi, but around the world,” Calhoun said.
The MCPA is a nonprofit advocacy organization that provides support and resources for Mississippians curious or interested in obtaining a medical marijuana prescription.
Calhoun was inspired to advocate for medical marijuana in Mississippi after seeing firsthand the positive changes that medical marijuana made in her son Austin’s life. Austin developed chronic Lyme disease at the age of 17 and suffered severe seizures, joint pain and nausea until he obtained a medical marijuana prescription.
“Our goal is to ensure that patients have ease of access to their medical cannabis. We hope, in the future, that patients have an easy application process as well as access to practitioners and dispensaries,” Calhoun said.
Calhoun is also concerned specifically with ensuring that medical marijuana in Mississippi is an affordable medicine accessible to patients that need it.
“We want affordable products for our patients because all the work that we’ve done would be for naught if patients can’t afford their medicine. We certainly do not want them to go to the illicit market,” Calhoun said. “We have a lot of innocent patients who are seeking alternative treatments to opioids and other pharmaceutical drugs that have lifelong side effects. I don’t want anybody to have to go to the illicit market because that can be dangerous.”
Unlike the unregulated black market, the legal cannabis market is heavily regulated to ensure medicinal quality.
“Through the program that we have, cannabis is tightly regulated for the safety of the patient. I think that this is a win-win to have a medical cannabis program in our state so that we can ask the patients and give them the right to choose what they want to do to treat their issues,” Calhoun said.
MCPA hopes to partner with one of the cannabis dispensaries in Oxford in the future. These dispensaries would pay to be a partner to help fund the research for the organization. It would benefit the dispensaries, as it would allow the dispensaries to know what strains to stock the shelves with and what strains to recommend based on a patient’s special circumstances.
“We’re excited and it’s just surreal. It’s a dream come true,” Calhoun said of the partnership.