DEA Ends Federal Monopoly on Research Cannabis Production After More Than 50 Years

Two farms selected to grow, and why this is a crucial milestone for the industry.

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This story originally appeared on Benzinga

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) finally authorized two cannabis companies to harvest marijuana for research purposes, reported Marijuana Moment, ending a five-decade federal monopoly.

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Why is this important? 

Because a farm functioning as part of the University of Mississippi has been the only legal source of federal research cannabis since 1968, despite lawsuits and years of complaints that Ole Miss's cannabis product was not high enough quality to be properly used for important research.

Though the DEA began asking for applications for additional cannabis cultivators under President Barack Obama then later the Trump administration, it had not approved any of them, until now. 

RELATED: New Bill Allows Scientists to Access Research Marijuana From Dispensaries

Two farms selected to grow

The DEA announced in May that it would begin approving applications from universities and legal cannabis growers seeking to become federally authorized to manufacture the plant for research purposes. And, apparently, after what many believed to be footing-dragging, the DEA will finally end the national monopoly. 

Groff North America Hemplex and the Biopharmaceutical Research Company (BRC) are the two companies that have officially obtained DEA approval have started cultivation and harvesting marijuana plants. 

For the time being, these two operators are only approved to cultivate crops for internal quality control and calibration purposes, with the intention of eventually being approved to sell products to the DEA to be distributed for clinical research and drug development. 

“All of these steps are incremental steps that lead to our production at BRC, and certainly all of our peers in the federally legal cannabis industry,” George Hodgin, CEO of BRC told Marijuana Moment. “These steps are taking place because of the loud drumbeat of the advocates of the cannabis community over the past decades.”

Crucial milestone for the cannabis industry 

This makes for an important milestone in the industry by providing better quality material for much-needed research. For a long time, cannabis advocates have harshly criticized the federal cannabis monopoly, arguing that it has needlessly limited serious research due to the lack of supply and for providing subpar and chemically different marijuana from that which is available in dispensaries. 

National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) director Nora Volkow told the outlet that it would be “valuable” for researchers to use marijuana from dispensaries to examine what kind of weed is being consumed to better understand its benefits and risks.

BRC finalized its first harvest in November and is already working on a second batch under DEA licensure. Groff completed its first harvest last week.

In September the DEA made another move implying support for cannabis research when it proposed a notable increase in federal limits for the production of psilocybin, psilocin and marijuana for research purposes.