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DEA Proposes to Expand Marijuana Research (Again)

By Leo Bear-McGuinness

Published: Mar 23, 2020   
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The US federal government has once again announced its intention to improve the quantity, quality, and accessibility of cannabis for scientific researchers.

Published on March 23, the proposed rules will amend the existing regulations linked to the Controlled Substance Act, which has long hindered the progress of cannabis research in the US.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has issued similar statements before, but the administration says its latest proposal is the “most significant action” yet taken.

Growing research

Despite receiving over 30 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 produce cannabis material for scientific research.

The administration said it planned to review these pending applications last August, as well as propose new cultivation regulations.

Now the proposals have finally been released and are open for public comment until May 22, 2020.

“The Drug Enforcement Administration continues to support additional research into marijuana and its components, and we believe registering more growers will advance the scientific and medical research already being conducted,” the DEA’s acting administrator, Uttam Dhillon, said in a statement.

“DEA is making progress to register additional marijuana growers for federally authorized research, and will continue to work with other relevant federal agencies to expedite the necessary next steps.”

As per the US’s Controlled Substance Act, the DEA already licenses cultivators and designates the areas where they can grow cannabis.

Under the new proposals, these powers would be extended; all cultivators would have to deliver their crops to the DEA within four months of the harvest, and the agency would have the exclusive right of importing, exporting, and wholesale trading stocks of all cannabis types other than medicinal preparations. 

High-grade cannabis

Top quality cannabis is sorely needed for scientific research. A study conducted last year 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 Mississippi cannabis is generally of poor quality and tainted by impurities.

“SRI used [cannabis from the University of Mississippi] for its phase two trials,” wrote the Scottsdale Research Institute (SRI) in its lawsuit against the DEA. “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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