Marijuana is now legal in four states, and has been legalized for recreational use in many other states as well. The US has been gearing up to study the benefits of marijuana, and it’s about to get a whole lot easier to do so. New legislation will allow researchers to apply for government grants to study the effects of marijuana on a variety of health issues, including various types of cancer, neurological disorders, and even ADHD.
For the past few years, the cannabis industry has seemed to have entered a period of consolidation, with larger companies taking over the smaller ones and growing them into more successful enterprises. According to an article I read recently, this consolidation is expected to continue, and will result in the US “weed industry growing from $7.5 billion to $10 billion by 2020.” The article also stated that this growth in the industry will result in more research being done into the plant, rather than less.
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 existed for over 50 years.
A university study showed that Ole Miss weed had a genetic profile closer to that of cannabis than the weed you find at your local dispensary. The Scottsdale Research Institute sued the DEA to allow other sites to grow marijuana for research. The lawsuit accuses Ole Miss of using moldy weeds that contained bacilli and had not been properly tested before being sent to investigators.
This will all be over soon. The DEA intends to issue new permits once the agency completes the review process for current applicants. Despite the lack of a timetable, the DEA made rapid progress on this process under the administration of President Joe Biden, after years of delays under the administration of President Donald Trump.
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Ironically, the DEA, which has played a central role in the federal government’s decades-long fight against drugs, will work with the new growers to produce, store, package and distribute marijuana, it said.
The DEA is shifting from a role as an enforcement agency to a role as a controller of the marijuana supply chain, including the purchase of marijuana for research from growers and its delivery to researchers funded by the National Institutes of Health (and others). The DEA plans to allow some manufacturers to send small batches directly to research laboratories.
This part of the plan raises doubts among some about the DEA’s ability to manage the cannabis supply chain. In general, however, scientists are pleased with the speed with which the DEA is acting on this issue.
Shane Pennington, an attorney representing the Scottsdale Research Institute in a lawsuit against the DEA, told Science magazine that the DEA’s announcement ends a 50-year illegal government monopoly that has blocked scientific research into the medical uses of cannabis.
Ole Miss is no longer the only explorer in town
Due to the lack of quality marijuana research, the United States lags behind other countries in the use of research that examines the potential health benefits of marijuana. Israel, where this research began, is considered a pioneer in cannabis research.
However, as a result of the new DEA, the scope of the investigation will likely be expanded. Sue Sisley, president and principal investigator of the Scottsdale Research Institute, stated to Science: We are very pleased with this decision.
This is a victory for scientific freedom. There is finally a way to use real cannabis in our own research and provide genetically diverse cannabis to scientists across the country, she said.
Ole Miss has banned the cultivation of research grass since 1968. The federal government, which still considers marijuana an illegal drug, has refused to license other producers. However, that changed under the Obama administration, which announced it would expand the program in 2016, a process the Biden administration is currently completing.
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