After decades of justifying the delay of cannabis research in the United States, the DEA and Justice Department have reconsidered their stance on the matter. It should come as no surprise that lawsuits filed by The Scottsdale Research Institute (SRI) were necessary to make the DEA reassess their handling of licensing cultivators and release a secret memo.
The memo, which explicitly details an international treaty requiring tighter controls on the production and distribution of marijuana, explains why the DEA has taken their sweet time following through on their 2016 promise to permit alternatives to NIDA's supply. The DEA agreed to disclose the memo yesterday as part of a settlement agreement with Arizona's Scottsdale Research Institute (SRI), which is investigating marijuana's potential as a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.
Cannabis advocates have fought diligently with US agencies to amend their approach on cannabis research but this new lawsuit may be the catalyst for actual change. SRI's lawsuit focuses on how the DEA chose to interpret international drug treaties to avoid licensing more cannabis cultivators and manufacturers.
The document released by the DEA largely confirms what most scientific communities suspected. In the last months of the Obama administration, the DEA announced approval for additional cannabis manufacturers. However, the Trump administration secretly issued a 2018 internal government opinion that interprets international obligations as making this pledge for research impossible to fulfill.
Single-agency requirements were overlooked throughout this process; NIDA which operates under the Department of Health and Human Services, is not overseen by the DEA. This raised concerns over the single-agency requirement for licensing growers.
Previous reports also show that under Jeff Sessions, the Justice Department blocked the DEA from processing several cultivator license applications. The reason this all matters? It is creating a monopoly on cannabis cultivation for research purposes. Currently, the University of Mississippi is the only supply of research grade cannabis.
However, studies have found that the crops grown are not indicative of the cannabis sold in the retail stores of legal states. It’s been three years since the DEA announced more licenses and applicants haven’t heard a peep in terms of expected issue dates. As far as advocates are concerned this was a step in the right direction and a glimpse into the illogical makeup of cannabis prohibition.