Thanks to Charles Pollack, Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia was to become a global hub of cannabis research—the “Silicon Valley” of cannabis R&D. Behavioral challenges leading to sexual harassment charges triggered a series of events that ultimately put the place in shambles.

The Lambert Center for the Study of Medicinal Cannabis and Hemp was to be a visionary place that led the world in cannabis research. Already, Philadelphia was a major medical center and biopharmaceutical hub—it made sense.

Inappropriate Behavior

Perhaps because of ego, a sense of entitlement or even omnipotent impulses, something led Pollack astray in Thomas Jefferson University. He began harassing a female that ultimately led to his forced resignation, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer.


The new cannabis center wasn’t around long enough to have its own trajectory of success. There were no established initiatives, processes and systems. Hence, Pollack’s departure led to a series of other changes and even revelations that according to the Inquirer have “tarnished the university’s reputation and threatened the future of his creation.”

From claims that there were ethical lapses to what appears to be evidence of sloppy administration, it all points to potentially a bigger underlying problem within the institution. Typically, if there is enough bad behavior within an organization, it is indicative of bigger organizational problems often stemming from leadership challenges.

The Perfect Replacement

Upon Pollack’s departure, the university inserted Rajesh Aggarwal, a bariatric surgeon with no cannabis experience whatsoever. Apparently, he proceeded to fire the paid staff of 4 in May and didn’t bother to consult with the center’s advisory committee, reports Sam Wood and Erin Arvedlund of the Inquirer. Moreover, he went on to dismiss advisors who represented key players in an elite network of marijuana researchers and entrepreneurs. Whoever assigned Aggarwal to the role clearly had certain outcomes in mind.

Blown Opportunity

Some reports project that cannabis related sales will top $30 billion by 2023. Some of the latest studies peg the global cannabis market at $340 billion—massive by any count. Other reports project the medicinal cannabis market to reach nearly $57 billion by 2026.

With rapid medical legalization across the U.S., Thomas Jefferson University positioned itself perfectly as a growing number of emerging life science ventures engaging in research as to the use of cannabinoids in health products and treatments. Philadelphia was where it was going to come together—the health care complex, the biopharmaceutical cluster, entrepreneurs and start-up ventures all coalescing around what was to be the Thomas Jefferson University hub.

Source: The Philadelphia Inquirer

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