Updates in medical cannabis this week

Karen Berger, PharmD, Medical Writer

A few fascinating things are happening in the medical cannabis world. Let’s talk about some stories in the news.


The University of Pittsburgh medical cannabis study for sickle cell disease

The University of Pittsburgh (Pitt) is one of only eight universities in Pennsylvania certified to conduct medical marijuana research. Researchers at Pitt will launch a clinical trial of medical cannabis in sickle cell patients. 

Dr. Laura De Castro, director of clinical translational research at Pitt’s Sickle Cell Disease Research Center of Excellence, stated, “Patients with sickle cell disease and chronic pain have no real alternative to chronic opioid therapy, which has severe limitations and disadvantages. We are proud to have this opportunity to study potential cannabis treatments for these patients who live in constant debilitating pain.” 

Sickle cell disease affects approximately 100,000 Americans. The disorder is associated with a shorter life span. About 15% of these patients suffer from chronic pain and usually take opioid painkillers.

Israel to open their first medical cannabis center in November 

CANTEK, an Israel medical cannabis company, announced that it would open the country’s first medicinal cannabis center. The center will open in Tel Aviv, Israel, in November. In addition to a “cannabis-pharmacy” and clubhouse, the center will house the “Tree of Knowledge,” a cannabis consultation project.

Physicians with various specialties will practice at the center, treating patients with medical cannabis for conditions such as PTSD, autism, Crohn’s disease, chronic pain,  and cancer. In the clubhouse, patients will gather to discuss treatments and attend lectures. 

David Shisel, VP of CANTEK, stated, “10% of Israelis have been diagnosed with PTSD. 17% of the population has chronic pain. That’s up to 27% of the population that could qualify for a license.”

Grandmother sues Disney after being arrested with CBD oil


Hester Burkhalter, age 69 years, has filed a civil lawsuit against The Walt Disney Company and the Orange County sheriff. Her attorney, Ben Crump, said she “was wrongfully arrested and taken into custody at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, for possessing federally legal CBD oil” in 2019. 


The lawsuit alleges illegal detention, false arrest, and violation of civil rights. Burkhalter is suing for $6 million in compensatory damages, $12 million in punitive damages, and millions of additional dollars for her family. 

Burkhalter traveled with her husband and three children to Disney in April 2019. When security personnel at the Magic Kingdom found a one-ounce bottle of CBD oil in her purse, Burkhalter explained that it was for arthritis. She was arrested for felony drug possession and transported to a detention facility, where officers did a strip search and body cavity search. 

Crump, who also represents the family of George Floyd, stated that Disney has not apologized to Burkhalter.


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  1. Pitt to launch study of medical marijuana use to ease pain in sickle cell patients. Trib Live https://triblive.com/news/pennsylvania/pitt-to-launch-study-of-medical-marijuana-use-to-ease-pain-in-sickle-cell-patients/ August 6, 2020.
  2. Israel’s first medical cannabis center to open in November. Jerusalem Post. https://www.jpost.com/israel-news/israels-first-medical-cannabis-center-to-open-in-november-637470 August 5, 2020.

Grandmother sues after she was arrested at Disney with CBD oil in her purse. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2020/08/06/us/disney-woman-sues-over-cbd-oil/index.html August 6, 2020.