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DEA Announces It Will Expand Cannabis Research

By Leo Bear-McGuinness

Published: Aug 27, 2019   
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The US federal government has announced its intention to improve the quantity, quality, and accessibility of cannabis for scientific researchers.

The statement came on Monday from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which was ordered earlier this month by the US Court of Appeals to explain its inaction on a cannabis cultivation license application it had received nearly three years ago.

Federal disapproval

Despite receiving 33 applications since 2016 to “provide researchers with a more varied and robust supply of marijuana,” only one cultivation facility – a research department at the University of Mississippi – is authorized by the DEA to provide cannabis material to scientific researchers.

Defending the administration’s inaction in 2017, a DEA spokesperson stated that it didn’t have a timeline to approve or deny the submissions.

But now, days before it was required under a federal court order to respond to a lawsuit from one of the original applicants, the administration has said it plans to propose new regulations for cultivators before reviewing pending applications.

“Prior to making decisions on these pending applications, DEA intends to promulgate regulations that govern the program of growing marihuana for scientific and medical research under DEA registration,” the notice states.

Any member of the public is also free to add their thoughts on this regulatory process by contacting the DEA directly.

“I am pleased that DEA is moving forward with its review of applications for those who seek to grow marijuana legally to support research,” said Attorney General William Barr in a press statement. “The Department of Justice will continue to work with our colleagues at the Department of Health and Human Services and across the Administration to improve research opportunities wherever we can.” 

Research needs high-grade cannabis

High quality cannabis is sorely needed for scientific research. One recent study carried out on cannabis from the University of Mississippi found the crop genetically closer to hemp than most market-sold cannabis.

Scientists have also complained that the federal grade cannabis is generally of poor quality and tainted by impurities.

“SRI used [cannabis from the University of Mississippi] for its Phase II trials,” wrote the Scottsdale Research Institute (SRI) in its DEA lawsuit. “It arrived in powdered form, tainted with extraneous material like sticks and seeds, and many samples were moldy.”

“Whatever reasons the government may have for sanctioning this cannabis and no other, considerations of quality are not among them. It is not suited for any clinical trials, let alone the ones SRI is doing. Simply put, this cannabis is sub-par.”

Leo Bear-McGuinness

Science Writer & Editor

Leo joined Analytical Cannabis in 2019. From research to regulations and analysis to agriculture, his writing covers all the need-to-know news for the cannabis industry. He holds a Bachelor's in Biology from Newcastle University and a Master's in Science Communication from the University of Edinburgh.


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