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DEA Finally Ends Federal Monopoly on Poor Quality Research-Grade Cannabis

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“Socalj” For Borderland Beat

Since 1968, only one marijuana grower, with a reputation of producing poor-quality ~8% THC cannabis has been allowed to grow for scientific research purposes.
Late last week, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) quietly made an announcement that’s expected to have a profound and long-lasting impact on cannabis research and development in the United States and big step towards federal legalization.

In its statement, the DEA said it was “nearing the end of its review of certain marijuana grower applications, thereby allowing it to soon register additional entities authorized to produce marijuana for research purposes.”

In other words, the feds are ending their monopoly on cannabis grown for scientific purposes. And that means American researchers can, for the first time ever, conduct studies using real-world cannabis instead of the terrible low-THC schwag they’ve been forced to use for decades.

There are several reasons why this is a big deal. Since 1968, the only federally approved supplier of cannabis for research purposes in the United States has been a 12-acre farm run by the National Center for the Development of Natural Products at the University of Mississippi. That production has been exclusively for the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), which maintains control over the production and distribution of research-grade cannabis in the United States.

Over the years, the Mississippi weed farm has earned a notorious reputation for growing some of the worst cannabis in the world. Leafly’s Ben Adlin documented the shockingly poor quality.

Smoking 25+% THC, Studying 8% THCThe poor quality and low potency of government-grown cannabis has been an ongoing issue for U.S. cannabis researchers. The inadequacy of NIDA cannabis has led to some high-profile academic disputes, lawsuits and national headlines, as well as well-founded accusations that the DEA was dragging its feet on the issue. In 2017 Rick Doblin, founder and executive director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) declared that NIDA was “completely inadequate as a source of marijuana for drug development research.”

For years, NIDA and the DEA have promised to open up the sourcing of federally-approved research cannabis. But nothing happened. On May 14, however, the DEA announced that “a number of manufacturers’ applications to cultivate marijuana for research needs in the United States appears to be consistent with applicable legal standards and relevant laws.”

As a result, and pending final approval, the agency has given preliminary approval to several organizations to grow cannabis for research. At the moment only three organizations have been publicly named as approved new growers for research: Pennsylvania-based Groff North America, the Scottsdale Research Institute (SRI) in Arizona, and Biopharmaceutical Research Company (BRC) in California.

For George Hodgin, a former Navy SEAL who is the founder and CEO of BRC, the DEA’s announcement is nothing but good news. “Up until now, research institutions, biotech firms and other private companies had few, if any, options for federally legal cannabis R&D,” he said in an email to Leafly. “This monumental step from the DEA means that BRC can now position itself as that all-in-one source for reliable and safe research and cultivation.”

Hodgin noted that companies like his also want research organizations to have more choices in the marketplace; ensuring that “the quality of the product is comparable to the supply used by cannabis patients as well as recreational users.”

The DEA announcement, he added, will “unleash a new wave of job creation in the cannabis sector and at the same time begin to develop valuable American IP [intellectual property]. This just wasn’t really possible before this decision.”

For his part BRC’s George Hodgin sees the start of a new era of cannabis research and development, fueled in part by new players in the marketplace.

“Now there’s competition, which this space has needed so badly for such a long time,” he said. “We’re ready to compete, that’s what we’ve been waiting for years to do. The decision to issue these licenses, in my view, will lead to an incredible rush of innovation in the healthcare space.”

But according to Hodgin, these developments will depend on more than rapid change. “Quality is just as important,” he said. “You can have the best research institutions in the world researching cannabis, but if the quality of the samples does not match what is actually in use, the research isn’t all that helpful. So, I think the competition will increase the speed, there’s not a doubt about that, but I also think the quality is going to be a crucial part of driving the innovation as well.”

Source: Leafly & DEA


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