How did the University of Mississippi become the sole supplier of cannabis for FDA trials?

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National Institute of Health (NIH) spends an estimated $150 million per year on marijuana research. All of which is sourced from one farm at the University of Mississippi.

“People don’t realize that I run a farm in Mississippi that grows marijuana because I’m required to do so,” Francis Collins, director of the National Institute of Health, The Fresh Toast notes. “But that’s the only source that investigators can use, and it may be rather different than what you could get in one of the states where marijuana is now approved in terms of its constituents.”

The University of Mississippi has been running its marijuana research program since 1968, when the then-director of the Research Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences landed the school a contract with the federal government to grow cannabis for research purposes. It has been funded by the National Institute of Mental Health and the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which would later become part of the NIH.

Francis Collins, director of the National Institute of Health.

Currently, cannabis is illegal for medical and recreational use in Mississippi.

“The university applies for the contract just like everyone else,” Mahmoud ElSohly, professor of pharmaceutics and director of the UM Marijuana Project, told the University of Mississippi News. “Our research capability, our expertise, our knowledge in the areas of cannabis chemistry and production, our personnel and facilities ­­— everything is in place to make us very competitive,” he said.

The university has indoor and outdoor growing areas. Since 2014, they have been working on a clinical trial for CBD as a treatment in paediatric epilepsy, which in 2017 was submitted to the Investigational New Drug Application and the FDA.

The plants are only available for FDA-approved clinical trials. All research proposals must run through the FDA if they are working with Schedule 1 drugs, which Collins says is a “big deterrent for research.”

The university’s facility has faced a lot of criticism for their cannabis. Some say it’s not the same type of cannabis as what is available in other markets, and many of the chemical compounds, such as the amount of cannabinoids, differ from what you might be able to get in other states.

In the United States, cannabis is a Schedule 1 drug, meaning it is classified as having “no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” Though legal in some states for medical or recreational use, cannabis is not federally legal.

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