The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) revealed a long-awaited final rule aimed at expanding the number of authorized growers of marijuana to be used in scientific research.
In a notice set to be formally published in the Federal Register on Friday, the agency said it made “minor modifications” from the initial proposed rule on licensing cannabis manufacturers it released in March, 2020.
DEA responded to numerous public comments it received since then, breaking them down into eight categories:
The application process and criteria; quality of marijuana; federal agency obligations pertaining to cannabis controls; the meaning of ‘medical cannabis;’ security costs and requirements applicable to the manufacture of marijuana; harvest; cost, pricing and fees of marijuana for DEA registrants and comments outside of the agency’s scope.
The goal of those pieces of legislation is similarly to streamline the process for researchers and expand access to cannabis for studies while mandating the DEA license additional growers by specific deadlines.
The House legislation contains a key provision that would allow scientists to access cannabis from state-legal dispensaries so that they can study products that are actually being used by consumers in commercial markets.
In DEA’s new filing, the agency blocked researchers to be able to obtain a dispensary for marijuana consumers.
Overall, DEA has maintained throughout the rule-making process for licensing additional growers that it will have sole ownership over any marijuana that’s cultivated for research purposes.
That’s a fundamental change from current policy. As it stands, a single facility at the University of Mississippi is authorized to grow cannabis through a contract with the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and DEA does not maintain ownership over its products.
But DEA now asserts that in order to comply with international law, it must institute a practice of “taking possession of cannabis crops after harvest and maintaining the exclusive right of importing, exporting, wholesale trading, and maintaining stocks of marihuana and its resin.
Since DEA first announced in 2016 that it would be expanding the number of marijuana cultivators, it received more than 30 applications but has yet to act on them. (This has led to several lawsuits, with scientists pushing the courts to mandate that the agency respond.)
DEA said in the final rule that it would be prioritizing those applications before moving on to review new ones.
Several commenters made the argument that DEA should relinquish control of the marijuana growers program and give that responsibility to an agency such as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, Food and Drug Administration or U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Time and time again, the DEA has proven itself full of empty promises when it comes to the issue of facilitating clinical cannabis research in the USA. In reality the Big Pharma companies are now thanking the DEA for the new ruling.
Without a clear directive from Congress, there is little reason to believe that the DEA will ever act in a manner that will facilitate the changes necessary to put science first and politics second.
This really shows that the existing statutory framework—the CSA, the DEA’s interpretation of the CSA, the rules they promulgated pursuant to that act—are really incompatible with some of the goals and objectives Congress seems to be pursuing through these research bills.
Marijuana Moment Network / ABC Flash Point Herbal News 2020.