DEA Proposes Rules To Allow For Expansion Of Marijuana Research In U.S.

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New rules proposed by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) could finally end years of frustration among research scientists who want to study the impact and potential medical uses of cannabis.

The rules, filed in the federal registry on March 20, will allow the DEA to consider applications from cannabis growers who want to supply marijuana for research purposes. Under the present rules, the only place to grow marijuana for research is the University of Mississippi.

The university has held the sole license to grow marijuana for research since 1968. However, scientists have complained that cannabis from the university’s farm is substandard when compared to what people can buy at a retail dispensary.

A University of Northern Colorado study found that the weed grown at the university is genetically closer to hemp than to the cannabis for sale in a dispensary, making any research using it suspect at best. It’s so inferior one scientist has sued the federal government in an attempt to force them into allowing other farms to grow research cannabis.

The DEA claims it wants to expand research, but scientists have waited years.

In a press release about the proposed changes, the DEA stated that the new rules will “expand opportunities for marijuana growers” who want to grow weed for research purposes. The new rule will allow the DEA to evaluate the 37 applications currently pending in Washington D.C. from growers interested in supplying marijuana for research.

Acting DEA administrator Uttam Dhillon said in the release that the DEA “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.”

Cannabis researchers have been saying this for years. While reading such a statement from the DEA gave hope to cannabis advocates, some remain unconvinced as the statement runs contrary to past actions of the DEA. Or, more accurately, the lack of action.

Some fear this is the latest foot-dragging maneuver from the DEA.

In an interview with Science magazine, George Hodgin, CEO of the Biopharmaceutical Research Company, called the decision “the biggest, the most meaningful, and material progress made in federal cannabis policy in decades.” The company is one of the 37 applicants on file with the DEA.

However, Shane Pennington didn’t share that enthusiasm. He represents the Scottsdale Research Institute, which is also an applicant and the company that sued the federal government.

Pennington told Science that filing the proposed rules is just one small step. The DEA still must take the time to solicit and respond to public comments, then act on the final rules. He voiced fear that the DEA has “found a way to put this on the back burner a lot longer.”

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