The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration recently announced that it would finally tear down some of the barriers that have prevented the scientific community from studying marijuana by providing more opportunities for institutions of higher learning to get involved with the cultivation of research cannabis. Unfortunately, a new report finds that the DEA’s offer to facilitate more federally sanctioned growers may not bring about the vibrant transform the cannabis community had hoped for because many universities have absolutely no interest in growing weed.
Recently, the folks at STAT contacted nearly a dozen universities across the nation—some of which already operate industrial hemp programs—to find out just how many of these schools are eager to get into bed with the federal government to grow research marijuana.
What they found is that none of the major universities they communicated with appear to have any plans of joining Uncle Sam’s cultivation network.
Cornell University, the University of Kentucky and Virginia Tech, all said they were not interested in growing marijuana. So did Michigan State University, the University of Vermont and Western Kentucky University.
The University of California, Davis, and the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, said they had no plans to get involved with the DEA. Colorado State University, Oregon State University and Purdue University said the same.
For the past several decades, the DEA has relied solely on the University of Mississippi to cultivate all of the marijuana it distributes for research purposes. Some have complained that this long-term relationship has hindered the discovery of the cannabis plant’s true medicinal benefit because there is not enough quality or variety in government weed for a proper exploration.
Because of this, much of the cannabis community was excited by the news of the DEA’s plan to allow additional universities to join in the marijuana cultivation game. But for now, it seems that most universities are keeping their distance in respect to pot cultivation, at least until they have a better understanding of exactly what the DEA requires to join its exclusive club.
Another aspect that could be causing some apprehension is cost. Any university that receives permission to begin growing marijuana for the government would be forced to cough up millions of dollars in construction expenses alone before it could ever get started.
One thing is certain—getting started would not be cheap.
In fact, last year, a post from the National Institute on Drug Abuse indicated that its contract with the University of Mississippi, which is worth almost $69 million, required the school to grow in a “secure and video monitored outdoor facility of approximately 12 acres” and operate an indoor facility of at least 1000 square feet, “having controls for light intensity, photo cycles, temperature, humidity, and carbon dioxide concentration.”
Interestingly, the STAT report goes on to suggest that independent growers will be another sector vying for federal cultivation contracts. After all, many of these businesses already have the type of facilities that meet the demands of the U.S. government.
But the DEA may not approve any of these applications because the principals involved have technically violated the Controlled Substances Act.
“Among the factors to be considered are whether… the applicant has engaged in illegal activity involving controlled substances,” said acting DEA administrator Chuck Rosenberg in a memo. “In this context, illegal activity includes any activity in violation of the CSA (regardless of whether such activity is permissible under State law) as well as activity in violation of State or local law.”
The memo goes on to say that while growing marijuana in a legal state “does not automatically disqualify an applicant, it may weight heavily against” them.
Although the DEA is now officially accepting applications for additional growers, the drug agency has not established any deadline for when it will make a decision. Some legal experts believe it could be years before any additional contracts are issued.