In Focus: Dr. Andrew Rosenstein
Dr. Andrew Rosenstein, CEO of Steep Hill Maryland and the chief of the division of gastroenterology at the University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center in Baltimore, comes from a family of researchers.
His grandfather, Dr. Albert Kurland, was one of the first people in the country to do research on LSD for therapeutic use. So it stands to reason that Rosenstein would be destined to become part of a new clinical investigation into another Schedule I narcotic.
Steep Hill, a leading cannabis testing company, licensed its cannabis testing technology to a team of physicians at the UM-St. Joseph medical center, who are now in the process of opening Steep Hill Maryland as a full-service medical cannabis quality assurance laboratory, bringing together a team of doctors, lab specialists and health care specialists.
DOPE stopped Dr. Rosenstein in the hallway of a downtown D.C. hotel after he made a presentation about the goals of his clinical research, and talked about his work to help evolve the cannabis industry through clinical work at the Steep Hill Maryland lab.
DOPE Magazine: Why did Steep Hill choose Maryland as a location for this testing and analytics facility?
Dr. Andrew Rosenstein: We are primarily a testing facility. But we are going to be working with researchers, probably doing part of the clinical testing. You have the National Institutes of Health nearby; you’ve got Johns Hopkins in Maryland. We have so many smart people in this small space. I have been talking to a lot of the people at the University of Maryland and there is a lot of interest in trying to get some of these questions about the testing and compliance of cannabis answered. We will be pursuing testing and compliance because that is what makes the government feel comfortable. If we can do this correctly and take responsibility as physicians to define and redefine testing, and create a culture of compliance and credibility—those are new words in the cannabis industry—we are going to help the industry evolve. We need everyone to roll up their sleeves to make this happen.
DM: This is such a complicated plant and it’s increasingly important to educate legislators about it. How can they understand it unless they are scientists with a medical background?
AR: I think it’s all in the delivery. People have the ability to process this information, it’s just in how it’s presented. So you can filter down to where a layperson can understand it. It doesn’t have to be ridiculously complex. It takes time to make sure that you can have that conversation and not talk above people.
DM: Cannabis is a “sticky” plant in that it absorbs what is in the air, which makes it more difficult to keep free of pests and other contaminants. How are we going to make sure that we can provide a plant that is as clean and safe as possible?
AR: I think it’s just like any food process. It’s got to be a good process by the people that are producing it; using gloves, washing your hands. Those things which are the same as you’d expect those professionals in a restaurant to do. If that same level of care is taken, I think the product is probably going to be safe.
DM: Isn’t it frustrating for you as a doctor that you can’t get enough cannabis for the medical research that’s needed?
AR: I think if there is one thing that is really upsetting, that is the most upsetting part of this process. For me, I think it’s all about the science and answering questions. If we were taking a hike in the middle of Indonesia, and nobody knew about cannabis and we brought it down and said, ‘Look at what this plant can do,’ then people would be scrambling to make millions of dollars off of it. But because of the stigmas that have been created over the years, we are not studying something that could really benefit a lot of people. And we have no idea that there is such a range of possibilities that need to be studied. The myths need to be debunked. We are going to find new facts as well that are going to help other clinical conditions. We just don’t have the answers yet.
DM: We are mapping the genome of this plant, and using hops to do pseudo-scientific research. Are we getting closer to understanding the plant, or just circling that target?
AR: I think you have to have a question that you want to get answered. There are a lot of things you can do with genetics and a lot of things you can do with clinical research. But I think what we need to do is sit down, and try to have some clinical questions and go about getting the answers. And that is what we have done with medications and treatments for cancer—we have a question and we try to get the answers through creating a study that is randomized and blinded. It’s going to take time to do that, but that is what has to be done.