The Drug Enforcement Agency’s (DEA) delays in approving applications to grow marijuana for research purposes are having a detrimental impact on people’s health and job prospects, according to a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers.
“It is imperative that lawmakers have scientific evidence about potential medical uses, side effects and societal impacts of cannabis to guide policy decisions,” the letter, signed by eleven House members, reads. “The only way that can occur is if our academic and clinical researchers are permitted to conduct well-controlled, scientific studies on these materials. To do so, they must have access to federally compliant cannabis and its chemical constituents in sufficient quantity and quality.”
For more than four years, the DEA has assured scientists who wish to undertake research on cannabis that it will start processing applications for additional federally-authorized grow sites. Currently, there is only one at the University of Mississippi which does not have the capacity to meet demand. What’s more, this facility is renowned for producing poor quality cannabis that bears little resemblance to cannabis bought on either the legal or illicit market, thus making it unsuitable for research.
Last year, a group of scientists sued the DEA for its inaction, but the case was dismissed when the agency explained that it was in the process of drawing up new rules governing marijuana production and distribution for research purposes. Internal memos between the DEA and the Department of Justice (DoJ) revealed these rule changes were thought to be necessary to ensure the US meets its obligations under international drug treaty conventions. The DEA sought public input on its proposed rule changes but received very few comments. Now, three months on from the deadline for public input, the DEA has neither finalized these rule changes nor granted any new grow licenses.
In response to these seemingly endless delays, the bipartisan coalition of lawmakers said the DEA is not only undermining valuable scientific research but is also inhibiting job growth and endangering American consumers who continue to use products that haven’t been rigorously tested.
“Delays in approving grower applications for the manufacturing of research-grade marijuana have had potentially detrimental effects on Americans’ health as untested products are being widely used for numerous medical conditions without safety or efficacy data to support these uses. It has also cost American jobs as other countries around the world such as Israel, the United Kingdom and Canada, have taken the lead in cannabis research, reaping the benefits of patents and products derived from this research. Meanwhile, American researchers have resorted to importing cannabis from overseas.”
The signatories to the letter are: Buddy Carter (R-GA), Lou Correa (D-CA), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Morgan Griffith (R-VA), Brett Guthrie (R-KY), Andy Harris (R-MD), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE) and Eric Swalwell (D-CA)
Last year, two federal agencies penned a joint letter to say researchers should be allowed to use cannabis from state-legal dispensaries in their studies. Several months later, another bipartisan group of lawmakers wrote to the DoJ urging it to allow scientists to access marijuana from state-legal dispensaries for research purposes, but for now doing so remains prohibited by federal law.