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April 30, 2019

Jefferson launches fund for hemp innovation and sustainability

Sustainability Hemp
Hemp kat_geb/Flickr/Creative Commons

Hemp is different variety of the Cannabis sativa plant than marijuana and can be used for a range of commercial purposes.

A $2 million gift from Australian philanthropist Barry Lambert will spur a new Jefferson Health initiative to promote innovation in the use of industrial hemp.

The cannabis crop is on the cusp of a resurgence in the United States as federal restrictions have eased in recent years, paving the way for commercial cultivation for various industries.

At Jefferson, the new fund will form part of the health system's Innovation Pillar, which aims to foster entrepreneurship rooted in sustainability and medical advancement.

“Barry Lambert likes to say that solving big problems requires courage and big ideas — that’s what this catalyst gift is all about,” said Stephen K. Klasko, president of Thomas Jefferson University and CEO of Jefferson Health. “The Lambert Innovation Fund will enable us to link ideas to impact.”

Jefferson has been proactive in medical marijuana research since Pennsylvania legalized it as a doctor-prescribed drug in 2016. Lambert, 73, helped launch the Lambert Center for the Study of Medicinal Cannabis and Hemp, providing a $3 million gift to get it off the ground.

The university is now keeping an expansive database to track patient outcomes through Pennsylvania's medical marijuana program.

The state is working to ramp up commercial licensing for hemp cultivation in hopes that it will serve in the development of products ranging from textiles and clothing to food and biofuels.

“Research into hemp is important to me and (my wife) Joy, because we’ve seen it work,” Barry Lambert said. “Medicine derived from hemp gave relief to our granddaughter’s seizures, and our hope is that this new fund will provide resources and inspiration for innovations and products that help others.”