On Friday, a bipartisan coalition of legislators from the House and Senate sent a letter to the Department of Justice requesting policy amendments, which would allow researchers to use marijuana bought from state-legal dispensaries for their studies on its benefits and risks.
The legislators were led by Rep. Harley Rouda (D-CA) and Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI). In the letter, they cited federal health agencies’ feedback where they said that research on marijuana is inhibited by the existing restrictions on cannabis. The primary challenge is that there exists only one federally-authorized facility producing research-grade marijuana.
Although the DEA said that they are in the process of authorizing more manufacturers, three years have passed since they announced approving more research-grade marijuana growers. The same agency further noted that it is in the process of developing alternative rules for licensing submitted applications.
However, the National Institute of Health and the Food and Drug Administration released a status quo report that did not address the barriers inhibiting researchers from using marijuana obtained from dispensaries for their research. The letter recommends for the agencies to allow researchers to use marijuana acquired from the state-legal dispensaries.
The legislators wrote in their letter that many states have marijuana laws and regulations in place for licensing industrial manufacturing activities and products for medical marijuana but not for research purposes, which would lead to FDA licensure.
The letter also repeatedly pointed out the lack of chemical diversity of the marijuana supplied by the federal government. One study found that marijuana obtained from a national research facility is more similar to hemp than to cannabis found in the market.
The bipartisan coalition made two recommendations; the first one is the amendment of internal policy which would allow researchers with Schedule 1 licenses to obtain marijuana-derived products from state-legal dispensaries for study. The second one is to issue guidance clarifying that DEA licenses are not a must for hemp researchers and that they can obtain hemp since it was legalized under the 2018 Farm Bill across the U.S.
The DEA is required to issue a response to the letter by December 20.
Twenty-one members of Congress signed the letter, including Senators such as Kamala Harris (D-CA), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Joe Kennedy (D-MA), and Matt Gaetz (R-FL).
In a press release, Rouda said that the U.S. research laws are ancient. He also noted that 47 states have some form of marijuana legalization, and the federal agencies must ensure that there is a way to study the benefits and risks of marijuana products.
In April, Attorney General William Barr received a similar letter requesting for an increase in the number of federally-approved cannabis cultivators.
It is widely believed that letters, such as the one written by these bipartisan lawmakers, no longer excite marijuana industry members like No Borders Inc. (OTC: NBDR) and Youngevity International Inc. (NASDAQ: YGYI) since no concrete action has so far resulted from such letters.
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