Last month, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) issued a rule that explicitly states it will allow some private businesses to grow cannabis for research purposes. In addition, the rule will allow researchers to obtain cannabis via the DEA rather than through the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
For decades, the sole federally sanctioned growing facility has been found at the University of Mississippi, which has had an exclusive contract with NIDA, which announced last month that it will continue its exclusive contract with the University of Mississippi.
Apart from difficulties with applying for access to cannabis through NIDA, many researchers have complained that the cannabis grown at the Mississippi facility is more chemically similar to hemp than marijuana. The rule will hopefully provide researchers easier access to cannabis through the DEA and access to specimens that have more in common with the cannabis found in medical or adult use dispensaries.
Though the DEA rule was released just last month, the Obama administration began seeking applications for growers in August 2016 to expand research into potential applications of medicinal cannabis. A total of 41 companies submitted applications at the time and have been waiting for a response for the entire duration of the Trump administration. The Justice Department under the Trump presidency has argued that the proposed program would violate the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, which was first ratified on March 10, 1961.
DEA officials claim that the rules published last month now place the U.S. in compliance with that treaty, freeing them to begin processing the applications submitted in 2016.
“Today’s unprecedented action serves as a testament to the federal government’s support for scientific and medical research with marijuana and its chemical constituents, which could ultimately result in the development of additional marijuana-derived medicines approved by the FDA,” a DEA statement said unironically.
It is unclear when growers will receive notice that their applications have been approved.