PENNINGTON, New Jersey — March 9, 2020 — Health and public policy experts who support the benefits of medicinal cannabis and the need for objective research have joined together to create the Cannabis Education and Research Institute (CERI), a non-profit organization.
CERI’s mission is to advance unbiased, evidence-based research on the medicinal use of cannabis and to share reliable information with patients, clinicians, payers and policymakers.
“We are bringing our voices together to ensure that the value of medicinal cannabis is more widely known and understood — and that medicinal cannabis is available to those who could benefit from it,” said David Knowlton, Chair and CEO of CERI.
As many states move to legalize cannabis recreationally, CERI will work to support patient access to effective strains of medicinal marijuana. The availability of medicinal cannabis can be harmed when states legalize recreational marijuana. Strains useful for the medical cannabis user often are not popular with recreational users. As a result, there is less incentive for cannabis dispensaries to cultivate medicinal strains.
CERI also will advocate for third-party payment of medicinal cannabis to help sustain the market for medicinal strains.
“We’ve seen first hand how medicinal marijuana can change lives for the better,” Knowlton said. “And we believe the best way to preserve access to medicinal cannabis is through reputable research — research that could prompt third party payers to cover medical cannabis. Coverage of cannabis will be essential to sustaining the market for medical marijuana.”
A health care leader for more than four decades, Knowlton is founder and former President and CEO of the New Jersey Health Care Institute.
CERI’s Board of Trustees and Advisory Board members include leaders in areas such as health care, research, public policy, business, and sports. Tiki Barber, a sports broadcaster and former NFL running back for the New York Giants, is a member of CERI’s advisory board. Barber said he supports CERI’s mission and will use his position with CERI to advocate for new policies that do not penalize professional athletes who use medical marijuana.
“I have both experienced and personally seen how football can damage the body,” Barber said. “We need policies that allow players to consider cannabis as an option for treatment. The NFL has refused to accept medicinal cannabis use by athletes even in states where it’s legal.”
CERI is seeking funding from individuals and organizations committed to supporting cannabis research and to helping patients who rely on cannabis for serious medical conditions.
CERI will work with patient advocacy groups on education and research that help patients living with chronic illnesses, such as cancer and epilepsy. CERI also is working with medical schools and is planning a series of Patient Centered Outcome Research (PCOR) studies to obtain feedback from medicinal cannabis users. CERI will collaborate with the Compassionate Care Foundation as well as other medical marijuana dispensaries on research.
“Critical gaps in knowledge exist around cannabinoids and the endocannabinoid system,” said Elisabeth Van Bockstaele, Ph.D., a member of CERI’s Board of Trustees and the founding dean of the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and Professional Studies at Drexel University College of Medicine. “I joined CERI to advance knowledge around a substance that is being used by millions of Americans. We need to support evidence-based research on both the beneficial and harmful health effects of cannabis use.”
In addition to Knowlton and Dr. Van Bockstaele, CERI’s Board of Trustees includes other leaders in research, health and public policy:
Ruth Perry, M.D., a physician with CityMD and a former Executive Director of the Trenton Health Team.
Sonia Delgado, a strategist at Princeton Public Affairs Group experienced in management of legislative and regulatory issues in the public sector, corporate and health care settings.
Jeffrey Warren, a Principal with JR Market Strategies, a health care consulting firm that focuses on strategic business development for both early stage and established companies.
Anh Pham, a research associate with Health Management Associates, a national consulting group working in publicly funded healthcare.
In addition to Barber, Jill M. Giordano Farmer, D.O., MPH, is also a member of CERI’s Advisory Board. Dr. Farmer directs the Parkinson’s disease and Movement Disorder Program at Global Neurosciences Institute and is Director of the Parkinson’s Disease & Movement Disorder Program at RWJ Hamilton.
Dr. Farmer is the only movement disorder specialist in the area licensed and actively incorporating medical marijuana into treatment algorithms.
Warren, who is CERI’s treasurer and secretary, said CERI is uniquely positioned to be a voice of the medicinal cannabis user.
“We want cannabis to be a safe, legal, affordable and available option for people who can benefit from this ancient botanical,” Warren said.