Several months ago we wrote a piece on Smoke.io “It’s Time for Trump’s Government and DoJ to Get Serious About Marijuana Research”. In it we highlighted the poor availability of cannabis to research centers, that also due to the still scheduled status of marijuana. Currently, most legal marijuana provided to researchers comes from the National Institute on Drugs Abuse.
The National Institute on Drugs Abuse (NIDA) supplies “terrible” marijuana to researchers, marijuana often even lower in quality than the 13% THC promised.
The former President of the USA, Obama, had already approved an initiative which would allow more growers to legally provide cannabis to researchers. But, until this day, not much has come out of it and the NIDA still benefits a quasi monopoly on legal research marijuana.
Yet, finally, it seems that improvement may be upon the horizon as the DEA recently announced that they will license more growers to supply research institutions with legal marijuana. Contrarily to public opinion, the DEA even announced that in the last two years an increase of 40% was achieved in the number of legal research marijuana providers: from 384 in January 2017 to 542 this January.
The new Attorney General, William P. Barr, who supports state-level legalization — not federal decriminalization and legalization — supported the announcement and promised that the DoJ and Health Department will be supportive of the initiative as well.
”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.”
— Attorney General William P. Barr
More importantly, the DEA’s announcement also mentioned — albeit without additional details — that it supports federally authorized research.
”DEA is making progress in the program to register additional marijuana growers for federally authorized research, and will work with other relevant federal agencies to expedite the necessary next steps. We support additional research into marijuana and its components, and we believe registering more growers will result in researchers having access to a wider variety for study.”
— DEA Acting Administrator Uttam Dhillon
While at first this may seem contradictory of the Attorney General’s position, granting federal licenses to approved growers could speed up research logistics, all while also dealing with oversupply issues in states like in Oregon. Currently, due to the federal criminal status of marijuana and state-level only legalizations growers can not transport their products inter-state, let alone sell.
Federal research licenses could allow multiple research centers to work with cannabis from the same origin and thus work on the same source material, of the same quality.
But while the announcement seems to signal a new, more proactive attitude from the current government and its agencies, the announcement could at the same time be a smoke screen due to the lack of any timeframe [commitment]. In fact, the announcement offers the agency more time by expressing a desire to first develop new regulations.
”Before making decisions on these pending applications, DEA intends to propose new regulations that will govern the marijuana growers program for scientific and medical research. The new rules will help ensure DEA can evaluate the applications under the applicable legal standard and conform the program to relevant laws. To ensure transparency and public participation, this process will provide applicants and the general public with an opportunity to comment on the regulations that should govern the program of growing marijuana for scientific and medical research.”
It is possible there is more behind this announcement and the press release is merely a smoke screen press release. The Scottsdale Research Institute recently sued both the DEA and the AG to explain delays in processing of applications. All while the SRI is currently running a FDA and DEA-approved study.
Both the DEA and AG being could explain the added statement of the AG in the press release, in a coordinated effort to express “good vibes and intentions”, rather than any actual intent of improving the current stasis. Hence why the desire to first develop new regulatory frameworks, which would take years and thus result in zero applications being dealt with until red tape has achieved new rules.
The DEA’s announcement follows only few months after the European Union incited its members states to fast track legal research opportunities in cannabis.
In the meantime, while in Europe the onus is put on the member states themselves, Trump’s administration has smartly made all the right noises, while in fact further obstructing a speedy evolution and improvement of the still ludicrously unworkable situation.
But, I guess, while the President recently claimed he knows more about nature than most, his knowledge about marijuana must be just as expansive and thus agencies do need more time to implement said knowledge. Until then, it seems the status quo will be maintained, possibly even further extended.