Companies approved by the DEA can now cultivate cannabis, increasing access to the plant for research and drug development.
Two companies announced that they’ve harvested cannabis with the approval of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), marking the long-awaited end of the federal monopoly on cannabis manufacturing for research.
For over 50 years, the only facility in the U.S. permitted to grow cannabis under a federal agreement for study purposes was housed at the University of Mississippi. According to Marijuana Moment, the DEA have taken steps to end their monopoly and authorise additional manufacturers, with a number of companies receiving conditional approvals for their applications in May last year.
Groff North America Hemplex and the Biopharmaceutical Research Company (BRC) have now started growing and harvesting the plants, following receipt of official DEA registrations. As it stands, they are only approved to grow the crops for internal quality control and calibration purposes, with the intention of later being certified to sell products to the DEA for distribution to clinical researchers and drug developers.
Regardless, researchers are enthusiastic that this development is a great step towards DEA-approved production of research-grade cannabis on an unparalleled scale.
CEO of Brighterside Vertical Farms, the growers contracted by Groff to cultivate cannabis, emphasized that these initial harvests are proving to the DEA that cannabis can be manufactured in the same way as any other drug or ingredient.
George Hodgin, CEO of BRC, stated in conversation with Marijuana Moment that these incremental steps are crucial in working towards a federally legal cannabis industry. Hodgin goes on to acknowledge the voice of advocates in the cannabis community who have campaigned for an end to this monopoly in recent decades.
Expanded cannabis research has long been called for by advocates, lawmakers and health officials alike. Many have complained that the current supply of government-grown cannabis for studies is not only insufficient but also so chemically dissimilar from what is available in dispensaries in state-legal markets, that it limits the applicability of research.
It would be valuable for researchers to access cannabis from dispensaries in state-legal markets, Nora Volkow, Director at the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) told Marijuana Moment. This would make space for a better understanding of the risks and benefits of what cannabis users are actually consuming.
In November, President Joe Biden signed a bill which contained provisions aimed at providing researchers with access to cannabis from dispensaries. In the interim, the DEA’s authorization of additional manufacturers will be helpful in closing the research gap on cannabis as federal prohibition continues to negatively impact public health, by effectively preventing research into the plant.
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