Top federal drug and health agencies are under pressure from a group of senators to provide an update about the long overdue increase in the number of authorized marijuana manufacturers for study purposes.
Led by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), the lawmakers wrote a letter emphasizing the importance of expanding the supply of research-grade marijuana as more states move to legalize marijuana either for recreational or medical consumption. The letter was addressed to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Office of National Drug Control Policy, and the Department of Health and Human Services.
Although the DEA announced that it would approve additional marijuana growers for research-grade weed more than three years ago, it is yet to deliver on its promise since it keeps delaying the process. In August the agency said that it is in the process of approving the applications; however, due to the large number of applications, it will have to establish alternative rules before issuing new permits.
The DEA made that announcement before the deadline issued by the court previously, which required the agency to take action. The lawsuit against the DEA was filed by a researcher whose application for marijuana production for research purposes had been suspended. The court dismissed the suit in October since the agency provided an update.
However, the senators were not placated by the agency’s response, and they are seeking guidance on the process to be taken to ensure that the qualified researchers are granted licenses on time.
The letter which was sent on Wednesday last week said that the number of studies covering the therapeutic effects of cannabis is limited even though millions of U.S. citizens are legally permitted to consume medical or recreational marijuana. The letter further noted that the number of Americans seeking doctors’ advice on marijuana treatment for ailments, such as chronic pain, PTSD, or terminal illnesses is ever-growing; therefore, federal agencies should make an effort to increase the amount of credible information on marijuana health benefits and health risks.
Being classified under Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act creates a barrier for researchers to conduct studies on marijuana.
The lawmakers also argued in the letter that inhibiting research opportunities and discouraging researchers who are independent and qualified from conducting studies on the benefits of marijuana is a hindrance to states looking to implement their marijuana laws. Marijuana studies are vital to developing an understanding of marijuana, and the findings would be a gem to the doctors, patients, and lawmakers across the U.S.
The letter also poses five questions to the agencies, and they expected the response by January 10.
- The status and timeline of application approval by the DEA
- Information about the existing supply of research-grade marijuana and if the facility is cultivating more varieties.
- Information on whether the government would reschedule marijuana
- The application process guidelines.
- Their support for research on the therapeutic effects of marijuana
The senators also wrote that there is a need for evidence-based public policy, which is vital to securing the health of the citizens since millions of Americans can now access medical and recreational marijuana. They added that the federal government should provide the necessary leadership and tools required in developing research in cannabis.
Other senators who signed the letter include Ron Wyden (D-OR), Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Ed Markey (D-MA), and Jacky Rosen (D-NV).
To what extent will such letters result in tangible results on the regulatory front? Experts cannot be certain that marijuana companies like Dama Financial and Grapefruit Boulevard Investments Inc. (OTCQB: IGNG) are still keeping count of the different letters that have been written to the federal authorities on matters of marijuana policy reform since the feds seem to be working based on their own schedule.
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