September 4, 2019

DEA to Improve Access to Marijuana Research

The DEA announced plans to facilitate and expand scientific and medical research for marijuana, with plans to bolster the marijuana growers program, allowing for a greater wealth of marijuana research.

New regulations to govern the marijuana growers program will soon be proposed, giving applicants and the general public an opportunity to comment on the regulations. According to the DEA’s announcement, there has already been great demand for this change, as from January 2017 to January 2019, the number of individuals registered by the DEA to conduct research with marijuana increased from 384 to 542, approximately 40%.

Historically, research institutions have faced much difficulty completing the intensive, time-consuming application process to study marijuana that required cooperation with the DEA, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the FDA.

Changing these rules could allow for a significant increase in medical marijuana research, and the clinical findings could greatly impact marijuana utilization in healthcare as well as public policy.

Furthermore, changes to the manufacturing of marijuana for medical research could allow for more dynamic types of research to be conducted. The Washington Post reported in 2017 that government research-grade marijuana differs significantly from the various marijuana products available to the public.

According to interviews with marijuana researchers working in cooperation with the federal government, at times government-issued marijuana contained stems and leaves, parts of the plant that are not regularly consumed, and at other times carried levels of mold and yeast far exceeding standards for states such as Colorado and Washington.

Allowing for broader, more diverse research into marijuana could potentially clear up the debates dominating healthcare headlines in the not-too-distant future.

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