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Finally, There's About to Be an Explosion in U.S Weed Research

The DEA's decision to grant licenses to more growers who produce marijuana for research should jumpstart scientific study in the U.S.

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The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is finally ready to end the University of Mississippi’s monopoly on growing marijuana for medical research. This monopoly has been in place for more than 50 years.

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A university study once found the Ole Miss weed had a genetic profile closer to hemp than to what you’d find at your local dispensary. The Scottsdale Research Institute sued the DEA to allow other places to grow weed for research. The lawsuit accused the Ole Miss weed of being moldy, containing sticks, and not getting properly tested before being sent to researchers.

That’s all about to come to an end. The DEA is set to issue new licenses once the agency completes the review process of current applicants. While there’s no timetable, the DEA under President Joe Biden’s administration has moved quickly on the process after years of delay during President Donald Trump’s time in office.

Related: The DEA May (Finally) Allow Private Companies to Grow Cannabis for Research

DEA will oversee the process

In an ironic twist, the DEA, which has played a central role in the federal government’s War on Drugs for decades, will work with new producers on the “production, storage, packaging, and distribution” of marijuana, according to information from the DEA.

The DEA will move from an enforcer of drug laws to overseeing a marijuana supply chain that involves purchasing research marijuana from growers and shipping it to researchers funded by the National Institutes of Health (and others). The DEA plans to allow some growers to ship small amounts directly to research labs.

That part of the plan gives some people pause over concerns about the DEA’s ability to handle a cannabis supply chain. Overall, however, scientists were happy with how fast the DEA is now moving on the issue.

Shane Pennington, the lawyer representing the Scottsdale Research Institute in the legal action against the DEA, told Science magazine that the announcement by the DEA ends “an unlawful 50-year government monopoly that has blocked scientific research into the medical uses of cannabis.”

Related: The Father of Marijuana Research Is Now Working on Synthesizing Cannabis Molecules

Ole Miss No Longer the Only Researcher in Town

Because of the lack of quality research on marijuana, the U.S. has fallen behind other countries when it comes to using research that explores the potential health benefits of marijuana. Israel, where such research originated, is considered at the forefront of cannabis research.

However, the amount of research should expand with the new ruling from the DEA. Sue Sisley, the president, and principal investigator at the Scottsdale Research Institute told Science that “we were euphoric” over the decision.

“This is a victory for scientific freedom. It’s finally a chance to use real-world cannabis in our own studies and supply genetically diverse cannabis to scientists across the nation,” she said.

Ole Miss has had a lock on growing research weed since 1968. The federal government, which still lists marijuana as a Schedule I illegal drug, refused to approve other growers. However, that changed under the Obama Administration, which announced it wanted to expand the program in 2016, a process the Biden Administration is now completing.

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