DEA responds to lawsuit, pushing forward with medical cannabis research applications

The DEA also made a point of noting that industrial hemp plants are no longer bound by the same restrictions as the cannabis plant

Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

The brakes have been lifted on medical cannabis research, following a recent announcement from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Late last month, the DEA revealed its plans to “facilitate and expand scientific and medical research for (cannabis) in the United States.”

Cannabis proponents and opponents alike have protested against the Agency’s delay in approving medical cannabis research applications, with just one cultivation facility having received federal approval so far.

“DEA is making progress in the program to register additional (cannabis) growers for federally authorized research, and will work with other relevant federal agencies to expedite the necessary next steps,” DEA administrator Uttam Dhillon said in a statement. “We support additional research into (cannabis) and its components, and we believe registering more growers will result in researchers having access to a wider variety for study.”

June lawsuit filed against DEA has prompted medical cannabis research

Research into the plant’s medical potential is currently only allowed to be conducted using cannabis grown at the University of Mississippi’s cultivation facility. With such a limited supply of weed being made available for research purposes in the United States, researchers took it upon themselves to file a lawsuit against the DEA.

Back in June, a lawsuit was filed by Dr. Sue Sisley’s Scottsdale Research Institute. Sisley’s application is one of 33 awaiting a response from the agency, which surprised plaintiffs when it revealed its plans to broaden medical cannabis research a few days before agency members were due to appear in a Federal Court of Appeals.

Their response was that applicants who applied for federal approval into cannabis’ safety and efficacy in the pharmaceutical/medical fields will have their applications processed “in the near future.” 

“Now we just need to keep the DEA’s feet to the fire and make sure they follow their own timelines they laid out in today’s public notice,” Sisley says in a statement. “It could take years to get access to newly cultivated cannabis material for research — DEA/DOJ can slow-roll this for many years to come, leaving progress of medical cannabis research in limbo indefinitely. But at least that door is now theoretically kicked open.”

Based on fine details of the announcement from the DEA, the plant is referred to as marihuana.”

In addition to informing the General Public that it would be speeding up the rate at which it reviews medical cannabis research applications, the DEA also made a point of noting that industrial hemp plants are no longer bound by the same restrictions as the cannabis plant.

Attorney General is happy about the DEA’s  medical cannabis research announcement

Applicants have been left tediously waiting to carry out federally-approved medical cannabis studies for a number of years, with former Attorney General Jeff Sessions being one of the main culprits to blame for the delay. 

However, the anti-pot politician was replaced by AG William Barr at the beginning of the year. Barr recently announced his satisfaction at the DEA’s announcement to speed up medical cannabis research applications.

“I am pleased that DEA is moving forward with its review of applications for those who seek to grow marijuana legally to support research,” Barr said in a statement. “The Department of Justice will continue to work with our colleagues at the Department of Health and Human Services and across the Administration to improve research opportunities wherever we can.”

Back in April, Barr said that he would rather Congress enact some form of legislation that permits states to choose their own cannabis laws as opposed to the existing situation.

DEA to “adjust” federal cannabis growing regulations ahead of reviewing medical cannabis research applications

While things are certainly moving in the right direction, the DEA has made it clear that the department will make changes to Federal cultivation regulations prior to the issuing of new licenses.

“The new rules will help ensure that DEA can evaluate the applications under the applicable legal standard and conform the program to relevant laws,” reads an official statement from the DEA. 

Although researchers have not yet been informed as to when their applications will be processed, they have being told registration is not necessary if they intend on using hemp-derived CBD preparations containing 0.3 percent – or less – of the psychoactive compound THC (tetrahydrocannabinol).