The Drug Enforcement Administration announced on Monday that the agency would increase the number of growers approved by the government to cultivate cannabis for research. In a notice scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on Tuesday, the DEA provided information on applications to cultivate marijuana it has received since it announced in 2016 that it would increase the number of approved growers and said that it would create new regulations before accepting additional applications.
“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,” DEA Acting Administrator Uttam Dhillon said in the press release.
Currently, the University of Mississippi is the only federally-approved source of cannabis for scientific research. But researchers have long complained that the marijuana grown by the university is of poor quality and not representative of the cannabis widely available in states with legal pot. Samples provided by the facility often contain seeds and stems and some have been moldy and unfit for use. The DEA anticipates that adding approved cultivators will increase the variety of marijuana available to researchers.
Although the agency hasn’t yet added new cultivators authorized to grow marijuana, “the total number of individuals registered by DEA to conduct research with marijuana, marijuana extracts, derivatives and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) has increased by more than 40 percent from 384 in January 2017 to 542 in January 2019.” Production quotas for cannabis have also more than doubled each of the last two years.
“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,” Dhillon said.
AG Barr Supports DEA Action
Attorney General William Barr indicated that making progress on applications to cultivate cannabis for research is supported by the Trump administration.
“I am pleased that DEA is moving forward with its review of applications for those who seek to grow marijuana legally to support research,” said Barr. “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.”
Although the notice from the DEA promises further action, it simultaneously buys the agency more time while declining to provide a timeline for further progress.
“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 release adds. “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.”
The DEA also noted that with the legalization of hemp in the 2018 Farm Bill, applications from those wishing to grow the crop are no longer required by the federal government.