Is The Federal Government finally serious about marijuana research?

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A long-gestating back-and-forth between scientists, cannabis advocates, and legislators has been the paucity of marijuana research. Lawmakers at the state and federal level have both referenced a lack of scientific literature around medical cannabis as reason not to push through reform. That happened just this year when Texas expanded its medical marijuana program but refused to post-traumatic stress disorder as a qualifying condition. There wasn’t enough research available, Texas legislators claimed, to support marijuana’s efficacy in treating PTSD.

Of course, those same legislators failed to mention just why there isn’t enough medical marijuana research in America. (They also politely declined a rider provision that would’ve provided funding for that same research they were requesting, which makes you question if these people place the proper value on research they say they do.) Many scientists have complained the marijuana provided by the federal government to conduct research is of poor quality. And due to the drug’s illegal classification at the federal level, many universities have steered clear of cannabis, fearing they’d lose federal grants if they did.

Now, the U.S. government is at least responding to one of those requests. In an email to the Associated Press, the National Institute of Drug Abuse announced plans to grow the largest crop of research marijuana in five years. Heeding scientists’ requests, the crops will match the quality found at many dispensaries. NIDA will also grow marijuana with varying levels of THC and CBD content, including high-THC and high-CBD strains, so that scientists can more closely analyze the effects of these cannabinoids.

However, the plants will be grown at the University of Mississippi, which maintains the exclusive license by the federal government to grow research marijuana. Scientists and legislators have urged the government to expand the number of growers nationwide, as the samples provided for research have been moldly and stored in freezers for several years.

Though the US Drug Enforcement Agency created an application to expand its list of farmers, the government organization has not responded to dozens of applications. Rep. Matthew Gaetz (R-FL) has persistently urged Congress to act on the issue, but to no avail. In addition, the Scottsdale Research Institute in Arizona requested via the US Court of Appeals an order for the DEA to process these applications, though that effort has similarly gotten nowhere.

“We are still working through the process and those applications remain under review,” DEA spokeswoman Katherine Pfaff told the AP in an email.

Whether the new increases in available cannabis to research is a sign the federal government is finally serious about the issue remains to be seen. Let’s just hope these samples aren’t as moldy as the last ones.

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