slides: Tufts Vet School Denies Interest In Medical-Marijuana Profiting
Saturday, October 19, 2013
Any ailing llamas at the Tufts Vet School in Grafton must be disappointed that they won’t soon be toking on a joint. Despite a front-page Telegram & Gazette article to the contrary, the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine denies that it is looking to lease land around the school to medical-marijuana growers.
The 84-acre Grafton Science Park, located on the western edge of the Vet School, is also owned by Tufts University. A Tufts subsidiary handles leasing for the park. So any legitimate business that meets the park’s scope of use, is game for being leased space there.
On Wednesday, a T&G article reported that Deborah Kochevar, dean of the Cummings School, had informed the Grafton Board of Selectmen, the night before, that “the school is considering hosting a marijuana-growing facility as the state prepares for the medical-marijuana era.”
Rushmie Nofsinger, a spokeswoman for the Cummings School, tells GoLocalWorcester that the T&G article is incorrect. “While a previously published report may have suggested that a medical marijuana dispensary might be under active consideration at the Science Park, we want to make it very clear that this is not the case,” she states. “We have not been approached by or are in discussions with any medical-marijuana-dispensary applicants. While Tufts University reviews all tenant proposals, a marijuana dispensary would not be an ideal tenant and we have no plans to pursue this direction at this time.”
|Dean Kochevar addresses the Grafton Board of Selectmen|
“We’re kind of watching that - I’m not sure whether that goes under life science or not,” Dean Kochevar tells the Board. “We’re eager to get tenants in Grafton Science Park, so any legitimate business that falls within the scope of what we’ve said that park would be, I think we would consider. Honestly, I have spoken to Tony Monaco, the president [of Tufts], and I think he hasn’t worried about it so much because there’s so much bureaucracy between the discussion now and actually having installation go in. But I would say we haven’t ruled it out. It would be an interesting tenant. That would be a dialog [by us] with the town, for sure.”
“It was more of a theoretical conversation,” Nofsinger tells GoLocalWorcester. “Yes, we would be open to that, but it’s not a real possibility. We haven’t been approached by anybody. There’s nothing on the table.”
The T&G article also stated, “While there are no specific plans to use marijuana in lessons and studies, Ms. Kochevar said the university will not rule it out.” But as the video shows, Kochevar was actually responding to a question about leasing land to medical-marijuana growers.
Nofsinger tells GoLocalWorcester, “I’m not sure where [the incorrect reference] comes from. I don’t know if the reporter heard something, inaccurately.” She says Tufts has yet to decide whether to ask the T&G to publish a correction or clarification.
Tufts may not view medical-marijuana farming as a boon market on the near horizon. But owners of other leasable Central Mass. property may be eager to profit from the Bay State’s newest cash crop.
As this market opportunity plays itself out, a national debate rages. It centers on whether medical marijuana is safe for use in treating sick or injured animals – such as the ones that the Tufts Vet School cares for.
Veterinarians need to join the debate
With Phase 1 of the state application process complete, the number of players vying for five potential licenses to dispense medical marijuana in Worcester County has narrowed from 15 to 13. Licenses are expected to be awarded to 35 dispensaries statewide in January, with at least one, and no more than five, dispensaries in each county.
The Bay State’s legalization of marijuana for medical purposes is good news “for many patients suffering from debilitating illness.” At least, that’s what advocacy groups like Mass. Patient Advocacy Alliance maintain.
Medical marijuana is also being heralded by some as good medicinal therapy for sick or injured animals. According to an article published last May in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medicine Association, “With pet owners already using the drug as medicine, veterinarians need to join the debate.”
One of the subjects of the JAVMA article was Dr. Douglas Kramer, a veterinarian doing business in Los Angeles, who died in August at age 36. Dr. Kramer, according to article, “didn’t think much of marijuana's potential to help animals until his pet Siberian Husky developed terminal cancer. ‘Nikita was wasting away, and she’d stopped eating,” he recalled. ‘I’d exhausted every available pharmaceutical pain option, even steroids. At that point, it was a quality of life issue, and I felt like I’d try anything to ease her suffering.’ Dr. Kramer began feeding Nikita a small amount of marijuana. The dog’s appetite returned, and she appeared more comfortable during her final months.”
Now, according to JAVMA, Dr. Kramer “finds himself at the forefront of an effort to bring veterinary medicine into the national debate about medical marijuana. On the basis of his review of medical marijuana research, Dr. Kramer believes there’s ample evidence to support using marijuana in veterinary patients as an alternative or adjunctive treatment for postoperative or chronic pain and also for palliative care.”
“I don’t want to come across as being overly in favor of giving marijuana to pets,” Dr. Kramer told JAVMA. “My position is the same as the [the American Medical Association’s]. We need to investigate marijuana further to determine whether the case reports I’m hearing are true or whether there’s a placebo effect at work. We also need to know what the risks are.”
To help address concerns about this issue, the Journal of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care, in 2012, published a study. During the study period, 125 dogs were evaluated. They included 76 dogs with known marijuana exposure or a positive UDST - a rare congenital or acquired skin disorder that may be related to elevated estrogen receptors. Six other dogs were known to have ingested marijuana and have a negative UDST. An additional 43 dogs, who were known to have ingested marijuana, were not tested.
The study’s results showed a four-fold increase in the number of marijuana-toxicosis cases at two Colorado veterinary hospitals over a five-year period, while the number of people registered for medical marijuana in that state had increased 146-fold over the same period. “A significant positive correlation was detected between the increase in known/suspected marijuana toxicosis in dogs and the increased number of medical-marijuana licenses,” the study concluded. “Two dogs that ingested butter, made with medical-grade marijuana in baked products, died.”
Nofsinger, of the Cummings School, says she read the findings of the study that was published last year in the JVECC. She says the Tufts Vet School has no plans to conduct its own study of the effects of medical marijuana on animals with certain illnesses. “Currently,” she says, “we don’t have anything going on, on [the Grafton] campus, that involves the use of medical marijuana for pets.”
Steven Jones-D'Agostino is chief pilot of Best Rate of Climb: Marketing, Public Relations, Social Media and Radio Production. He also produces and hosts The Business Beat on 90.5 WICN, Jazz Plus for New England. Follow him on Twitter @SteveRDAgostino.
Major permits are in-hand
They include local master-plan approval, and a Massachusetts Environmental Protection Act Certificate for up 660,000 gross square feet of space.
This includes access to WPI and UMass Medical School in Worcester (eight miles) and to technology and medical schools in Boston and Cambridge (35 miles), as well as to numerous technology and life-science companies in the I-495/Metrowest region.
Public infrastructure is present
Construction of the park's first phase of roadway, Discovery Drive, and public utilities has been completed, and natural gas and electric power have been extended to the site. The park's first building, the New England Regional Biosafety Laboratory, opened in 2009. Grafton's MBTA commuter-rail station is within walking distance (one-quarter of a mile).
Favorable business climateThe Town of Grafton is a business-friendly community that supports the project. Grafton approved the state's Chapter 43D “Expedited Permitting” designation, securing state approval of Grafton Science Park as a Priority Development Site in 2007. As a result, Grafton has also established a local, streamlined permit process.
Financial incentives are available
The Town of Grafton maintains an attractive, unitary tax structure and is located in a state-designated Economic Target Area. Subject to approvals from Grafton Town Meeting and the Mass. Office of Business Development's Economic Coordinating Council, a project demonstrating job creation in an ETA can obtain negotiated municipal tax rates and up to 6 percent worth of state investment tax credits for qualifying tangible, depreciable assets.