WASHINGTON, D.C. – Although cannabis consumption has been rapidly increasing in recent years, formal research into the benefits and risks of the plant are lagging far behind.
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has, once again, assured the public that it will help increase research by greenlighting multiple applications to cultivate and study cannabis. The problem, we heard this all before in 2016.
“For the past three years, the DEA has failed to take any steps to follow through on its promise to facilitate clinical cannabis research, and today’s announcement makes it clear that this foot-dragging will continue,” NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri said. “According to the DEA’s filing, the agency has yet to even evaluate even one of the dozens of applications before it—many of which have been pending for more than two years, nor do they provide any timetable regarding when or if they ever will.”
Several states have approved recreational cannabis use since 2016 with others starting or expanding medicinal programs. Altieri thinks it is long overdue for action on the part of the DEA and for a drastic increase in reliable cannabis research.
“In an era where public and scientific interest in the cannabis plant, particularly with regard to its therapeutic properties, has never been greater, and where patients in a majority of states are already using cannabis in compliance with state law, it is inexcusable that the DEA continues to take this ‘head-in-the-sand’ approach to this rapidly changing cultural and legal landscape,” Altieri continued.
In its newest filing on the issue, DEA acting Assistant Administrator Neil Doherty said the agency is “providing notice of certain applications it has received from entities applying to be registered to manufacture in bulk a basic class of controlled substances listed in Schedule I. Prior to making decisions on these pending applications, DEA intends to promulgate regulations that govern the program of growing marihuana for scientific and medical research under DEA registration.”
The notice affirms the fact that those researching hemp do not have to wait for application approval since its legal status was altered when the farm bill was passed in December.
“In addition, this notice informs applicants that they may withdraw their applications if they no longer need to obtain a registration because of the recent amendments made by the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 to the definition of marihuana to no longer include “hemp” as defined by law,” Doherty said.
According to the DEA filing, they have received thirty-three applications from research centers seeking to study cannabis. With the applications seemingly piling up, the agency claims to have been engaged in a policy review for the past three years.
“In addition, since publication of the 2016 policy statement, the Department of Justice, in consultation with other federal agencies, has been engaged in a policy review process to ensure that the marihuana growers program is consistent with applicable laws and treaties,” Doherty said. “That review process remains ongoing; however, it has progressed to the point where DEA is able to issue Notices of Application.”
Doherty said the review process has highlighted some potential changes that may need to be implemented to the federal cannabis grower’s program.
“Accordingly, before DEA completes this evaluation and registration process, DEA intends to propose regulations in the near future that would supersede the 2016 policy statement and govern persons seeking to become registered with DEA to grow marihuana as bulk manufacturers, consistent with applicable law.”