The Drug Enforcement Administration announced new rules last week that the agency said would expand opportunities for scientific and medical research on marijuana in the United States. The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking was filed for public inspection on Friday before being published Monday in the Federal Register.
The DEA originally announced that it would increase the number of marijuana cultivators in 2016, prompting 37 different entities to submit applications to be registered by the agency. But the DEA failed to act on any of those applications and announced in 2019 that it would create new rules before any new cultivators were registered. Currently, only one institution at the University of Mississippi has been approved to produce cannabis for research.
“The Drug Enforcement Administration continues to support additional research into marijuana and its components, and we believe registering more growers will advance the scientific and medical research already being conducted,” said DEA Acting Administrator Uttam Dhillon said in a press release. “DEA is making progress to register additional marijuana growers for federally authorized research, and will continue to work with other relevant federal agencies to expedite the necessary next steps.”
Under the proposed rules, the DEA would become a broker for all of the cannabis grown for research. Cultivators would be required to sell their products to the agency, which would then resell them to researchers for approved studies. Currently, the agency’s sole cannabis cultivator supplies marijuana for research directly to researchers, without the DEA acting as a middleman.
The DEA said that it would take control of all cannabis, cannabis resin, and other marijuana products produced by approved cultivators in order to comply with United Nations treaties governing research into controlled substances. The agency said the international regulations also require the DEA to be the sole importer of cannabis and cannabis resin for research, although the requirement would not apply to approved medicinal cannabis preparations.
The notice from the DEA and Justice Department also noted that since 2017, there has been a 58% increase in the number of researchers authorized to conduct cannabis research. The agency has also increased the quota of cannabis produced for research from 472 kilograms in 2017 to 3,200 kilograms in 2020.
The announced rule change will now go through a 60-day period for the public to submit comments on the proposal. The DEA said the proposed rule change is the “latest and most significant action taken to expand the number of registered marijuana growers in the United States and underscores the federal government’s support for scientific and medical research with marijuana and its chemical constituents.”