Expanded Access To Marijuana For Research In The USA Nears

DEA and marijuana research
Image: DEA

It’s been somewhat like pulling teeth, but the United States Drug Enforcement Administration has moved closer to allowing more growers to produce marijuana for research purposes.

While hemp was made legal at a Federal level with the signing of the 2018 Farm Bill into law, cannabis not meeting the definition of hemp is still considered marijuana in the USA, and therefore illegal.

This causes all sorts of problems for the industry, including relating to important research that needs to occur.

Currently, all federally-approved studies of medical cannabis must source their product from a single entity, the National Center for the Development of Natural Products at University of Mississippi. It has been the only legal source for more than 40 years. The quality of cannabis from the facility has been called into question in the past.

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With more growers to choose from, this would lift quality generally as there will be competition.

Cannabis research in the USA has been seriously impeded by the DEA’s stance on the issue. However, it has been taking steps to permit an increase in the number of growers authorised to grow marijuana for research purposes. The process has taken years so far.

Back in 2019, the DEA finally indicated it would “facilitate and expand” scientific and medical marijuana research and then in March last year, published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. In December 2020, the Administration finalised new regulations relating to growers becoming registered with the DEA.

Last week, the DEA stated it was nearing the end of its review of marijuana grower applications and said it would “soon” be able to register additional entities authorized to produce for research purposes.

The DEA said it has found “a number” of applications have passed muster and has issued a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) to these manufacturers as the next step in the approval process.

“To the extent these MOAs are finalized, DEA anticipates issuing DEA registrations to these manufacturers,” the Administration stated. “DEA will continue to prioritize efforts to evaluate the remaining applications for registration and expects additional approvals in the future.”