Female scientist in a hemp field checking plants and flowers (Stokkete/Shutterstock)

The state is seeking proposals for research projects that could help strengthen and expand its medical marijuana program.

The Department of Consumer Protection starting accepting applications for projects on Oct. 1, the same day Connecticut’s medical marijuana program extended to minors with certain severe health problems.

So far, two proposals have been submitted, said Leslie O’Brien, legislative program director at the department.

Eligible applicants include hospitals, other health care facilities, higher education institutions, licensed medical marijuana producers and licensed medical marijuana dispensaries. The state legislature recently allowed for in-state research to take place.

The hope, according to state officials, is that scientific research improves the medical community’s ability to determine how safe and effective medical marijuana is for treating diseases.

DCP is looking for projects examining the growth, processing, medical attributes, dosage forms, administration or use of marijuana to treat any medical conditions.

“The state’s medical marijuana program is not only providing patients suffering from serious diseases, and their doctors, an alternative treatment option; it’s creating good jobs in the state,” DCP Commissioner Jonathan Harris said in a statement. “With this new research program, Connecticut could become the focal point for medical cannabis research and add to the strong biotech base already here.”

The medical marijuana program employs 259 people statewide, according to DCP, and any research positions resulting from proposed projects would boost that number.

Those interested in conducting research must first apply for project approval by DCP. Once the project is approved, any research program employees who will have access to medical marijuana must apply for a license from the state – that includes anyone purchasing, transporting, testing, administering or storing the marijuana.

Once the necessary approvals and licenses are in place, research projects can begin enrolling participants.

Connecticut legalized medical marijuana for adults with qualifying health problems in 2012 and DCP officials say more than 14,000 patients statewide currently use it. Starting Oct. 1, legislation gave access to non-smokeable medical marijuana to children suffering from terminal illness, epilepsy, cystic fibrosis and other ailments.