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'The Doors are Wide Open': Denver Cannabis Company Gets DEA Approval To Expand Alzheimer's Research

DENVER, Colo. (CBS4) - The Denver cannabis company MedPharm can now ramp up its research into the effects marijuana has on Alzheimer's disease. It's possible because of a new Schedule I Researcher License granted by the Drug Enforcement Administration.

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"We're interested in how cannabinoids affect the nervous system, the brain, and in in particular, we're very interested in Alzheimer's disease," said Dr. Tyrell Towle, director of chemistry and extraction at MedPharm.

According to Towle, MedPharm's researchers hope to find whether cannabinoids can treat symptoms or even prevent the disease. Until now, research could only be done under state and city research licenses, he said.

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"When you're talking about wanting to do an actual clinical trial, you need a diversity of people that participate and one state just does not have the diversity of people that are required," Towle said.

The new DEA research license will now change that. MedPharm says will soon be able to ship investigational medications over state lines for clinical trials, partner with other labs, and even apply for government grants.

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"The doors are wide open at this point," said Dr. Duncan Mackie, director of pharmacology and experimental therapeutics.

Dr. Mackie says his researchers can also dive deeper now. They'll study more cannabis compounds than ever before, as well as their effects on different brain cells.

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"Pretty much anything that comes from the plant, we can now actually look at it using the same mechanisms we would in drug discovery at a large pharmaceutical company, which has never been allowed," Mackie said.

Getting the license was a years-long process, and now the harder work begins.

"[It means] better research, and then that research will lead to better treatments with fewer side effects," said Towle.

Under this new DEA license, MedPharm can only conduct research on marijuana shipped in from government approved channels. Eventually, the company hopes to obtain a bulk manufacturing license, which would allow researchers to test their own products.

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