The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the U.S. federal agency responsible for combating drug trafficking and distribution in the United States, last week proposed new rules that would expand the opportunities for scientific and medical research on cannabis.
The DEA had originally announced that it would increase the number of legal cannabis growers in 2016, prompting 37 different entities to submit applications for registration with the agency. But the DEA did not respond to any of these applications and announced in 2019 that it would create new rules before new federally registered growers could be registered. Currently, only one institution at the University of Mississippi is licensed to produce cannabis for research purposes.
The Drug Enforcement Administration continues to support additional research on marijuana and its components, and we believe that registering more growers will further advance the scientific and medical research already underway,” said Uttam Dhillon, acting administrator of the DEA, in a press release. The DEA wants to register additional marijuana growers for federally-authorized research and will continue to work with other appropriate federal agencies to expedite the next steps.
Under the proposed rules, the DEA would manage the distribution of cannabis grown for research. Growers would be required to sell their product to the agency, which would then sell it to researchers for approved studies. Currently, the agency’s only cannabis grower supplies cannabis for research directly to researchers, without the DEA acting as an intermediary.
The DEA explains that this would bring it into compliance with the UN treaties governing research on controlled substances. The agency stated that international regulations also require that the DEA be the sole importer of cannabis and cannabis resin for research, although the requirement does not apply to approved medicinal cannabis preparations.
The note from the DEA and the Department of Justice also explains that since 2017, the number of researchers authorized to conduct cannabis research has increased by 58%. The agency also increased the quota of cannabis produced for research from 472 kilograms in 2017 to 3200 kilograms in 2020.
The announced rule change will now go through a 60-day public comment period on the proposal. The DEA stated that the proposed rule change is the latest and most important step taken to increase the number of registered marijuana growers in the United States and underscores the federal government’s support for scientific and medical research on marijuana and its chemical components.