Tired of long marijuana research delays from the U.S. Justice Department, scientists are taking action.
Scientists at the Scottsdale Research Institute (SRI) have filed a lawsuit against the United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) for failing to approve their application to cultivate marijauana. The scientists submitted their marijuana grow application three years ago and are still awaiting a response.
For more than 50 years, there has been only one facility in the country approved to grow and provide marijuana that can be studied– the University of Mississippi. The small supply of federally-approved marijuana has caused research obstacles for years, and the crop grown at the lone facility has been criticized as being inadequate in quality.
Sue Sisley, principal researcher at SRI, and her colleagues claim that the poor quality of the cannabis received from the University of Missippi is inadequate for their research into marijuana’s potential benefits for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in veterans.
The DEA opened the availability of more licensed research-grade marijuana growers more than two and a half years ago, but has yet to act on the more than 25 applications its received, including the one from SRI.
The SRI scientists are claiming their application is being willfully ignored by the DEA, blocking them from studying the plant.
“While most states in the U.S. recognize that cannabis has medical value, the DEA says otherwise, pointing to the absence of clinical research,” said Sisley. “But at the same time, government regulations and bureaucracy prevent researchers like SRI from ever doing the clinical research the DEA has overtly demanded.”
The SRI scientists noted that U.S. Attorney General William Barr has acknowledge being in favor of research into the medical benefits of marijuana. However, his taking over the Justice Department in February has not seemed to have made any impact on the application approval process.
Barr’s predecessor Jeff Sessions was actively hindering applications for research, such as the one from SRI. Sessions himself was a long-time opponent of any level of marijuana reform. Under him, the DOJ reversed many of the pro-legalization steps it had taken during the Obama Administration.
Research Marijuana a Significant Issue for Years
Lawmakers, researchers and activists have been pushing the DEA to act on the outstanding marijuana grow applications for years.
Earlier this year, more than 30 bipartisan Members of Congress sent a letter to the DOJ and DEA, urging the agencies to stop blocking research applications. This was merely one of many letters sent by bipartisan lawmakers in the last two years.
The issue has even came before the courts in May when a coalition of patients sued the DEA for redress.
In response to the DEA’s inaction, a bipartisan cannabis research bill was recently introduced into Congress by Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Chuck Grassley (R-IA). Among other things, the legislation would require that the Attorney General approve or seek more information within 60 days of a marijuana research application being submitted. The AG would then have a maximum of 30 days to approve or disapprove the application.
The bill would also allow research institutions and medical schools to apply for licenses to grow crops for study.
Last September, the House Judiciary Committee approved a bill by Representative Matt Gaetz (R-FL) that would require the federal government to approve more facilities to cultivate cannabis for medical research. The bill never made it to the House floor for a full vote.
Research into the therapeutic potential of cannabis has been hindered by the plant’s Schedule I classification under the Controlled Substances Act. Because a lack of marijuana grade research has restricted the collection of data for so long, the full effects of marijuana are ill-understood. Still, the amount of cannabis research has increased exponentially since 2000, and studies that have been completed have yielded fascinating results.