Digital health companies continue to forge ahead with plans to delve into the medical cannabis industry, despite uncertainty surrounding the legal status of medical cannabis at the federal level.
On March 1, 2018, Revive Therapeutics Ltd. (“Revive”), a Toronto-based company focused on the research, development, and commercialization of novel cannabinoid solutions, announced that it has entered into a collaboration agreement with Ehave, Inc. (“Ehave”), a California digital healthcare company dedicated to providing the mental health community with digital solutions for treatment. The collaboration will enable enhanced patient and clinical research data management in Revive’s research initiatives involving the use of medical cannabis in the treatment of liver diseases.
The collaboration agreement is said to leverage Ehave’s expertise in health informatics through its “Ehave Connect” platform by integrating the platform’s diagnostic and treatment tools with Revive’s ongoing research initiatives in liver disease. The end product is intended to collect and integrate patient data from clinical systems, licensed health surveys, and Ehave’s own patient- and clinician-reported outcome applications to provide users with an easily navigable, tech-friendly patient management solution.
While digital health innovation continues to prosper, at the federal level the legal status of medical cannabis will soon face uncertainty once again as the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment (formerly known as the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment) (“Amendment”) must be re-authorized at the end of this month. In December 2014, Congress passed the original Amendment, which maintains that federal funds allocated to the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) cannot be used to prevent states from “implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.” H.R. 4660, 113th Cong. § 558 (2014), Public Law 113-235 (December 16, 2014). Because the Amendment was approved as a budgetary measure, it must be explicitly re-authorized by Congress as part of either a continuing resolution or a new fiscal year appropriations bill in order to remain in effect. The Amendment expired temporarily on January 20, 2018 during the government shutdown, but subsequently has been extended approximately eight times; the latest extension occurred on February 9, 2018 as a part of the continuing budget resolutions.
The most recent Amendment extension expires on March 23, 2018. Without its renewal, the medical cannabis industry will face uncertainty regarding the legal status of medical cannabis at the federal level, because Attorney General Jeff Sessions changed DOJ prosecutorial policy on cannabis—medical or otherwise—on January 4, 2018, when he rescinded several Obama-era memoranda, including the memoranda commonly referred to as the “Cole and Ogden Memoranda.” The Cole and Ogden Memoranda had provided that the DOJ would focus its prosecutorial efforts on illegal cannabis activities rather than medical marijuana activities operating under legal state-level programs.
Without the Cole or Ogden Memoranda, the only protection the medical cannabis industry has against potential DOJ prosecution is the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment. Therefore, only time will tell whether innovative collaborations between digital health and medical cannabis companies will continue to thrive or face potential federal scrutiny under the Trump administration.