A leading federal agency published a call for cannabis suppliers that can provide marijuana for research purposes.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) issued a notice that it’s seeking applications from facilities that are authorized by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to grow cannabis and who are able to help with the “acquisition and/or production of cannabis and related materials.”

Currently, the only source of research-grade marijuana for NIDA is a cultivator based at the University of Mississippi, but this cannabis has been roundly criticized as being of poor quality and bearing little relation to marijuana sold at dispensaries. This site has been NIDA’s only marijuana supplier for decades but the DEA recently moved to expand the number of authorized cannabis producers following concerted pressure from marijuana researchers.

NIDA states that prospective applicants must be able to “produce or procure cannabis, cannabis extract and other cannabis-derived materials for basic and clinical research, and conduct quantitative and qualitative analysis, stability determination, and recommended storage conditions for these products for approved research.”

The successful applicant would be required to extract cannabis to “isolate pure THC and other cannabinoids” as well as to “obtain cannabis extract of known potencies, manufacture marijuana cigarettes of varying potencies, and provide purified materials and marijuana cigarettes for research.”

Not only would the cannabis contractor support research into CBD and THC, they would also help with studies into lesser-known cannabinoids such as CBN, CBG and CBC.

“Interested organizations must demonstrate and document, in any capability statements submitted, extensive experience with and the ability to perform the above tasks,” NIDA said in its post. “Organizations should demonstrate capability to administer and coordinate interrelated tasks in an effective and timely manner.”

While DEA’s softened stance on authorized marijuana cultivators and NIDA’s search for higher-quality cannabis and cannabinoids is promising, marijuana research advocates claim that the plant’s Schedule I status under the Controlled Substances Act is the main impediment to research.

NIDA chief Nora Volkow even acknowledged that the approval process for marijuana research is too onerous due to its federally-controlled status.

This led Senate lawmakers to include provisions into a comprehensive infrastructure bill signed into law by President Joe Biden that allows researchers to source marijuana for studies from state-legal dispensaries.

The Biden administration, for its part, has said it wants to facilitate research into cannabis and other Schedule I controlled substances, but has stopped short of rescheduling.

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