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DOJ, DEA urged to expedite process for green-lighting marijuana growers, researchers

May 8, 2019 GMT

Thirty members of Congress signed a letter Tuesday urging the Trump administration to speed up the process of authorizing marijuana cultivators to grow pot for the government.

Addressed to the heads of the Department of Justice and Drug Enforcement Administration, the bipartisan letter argued that efforts to study the potential medicinal benefits of marijuana have been hindered as a result of the federal government having licensed only a single grower to harvest the nation’s stockpile of legal, research-grade weed.

“There is tremendous evidence that cannabis has the power to treat a variety of medical ailments,” the lawmakers wrote. “Unfortunately, the federal government stands in the way.”


Calling the application process to study marijuana “arduous and long,” the members of Congress complained that the researchers currently require approval from three separate federal agencies the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the Food and Drug Administration and FDA in order to acquire sub-par specimens grown by the only cultivator currently licensed by the government, the University of Mississippi.

“It is thus not surprising that those who want to research cannabis are frustrated,” the lawmakers wrote. “Some wait months or even years to have their applications approved. And then they have to deal with raw materials that do not always lend themselves to proper research.”

While recognizing recent measures taken by the DEA to broaden research, the lawmakers 26 Democrats and four Republicans urged the government “to go beyond these steps and do whatever you can to speed up and improve the research application process.”

“Please let us know what you are considering to change the application process so it moves more quickly and what additional resources from Congress would help in that regard,” they wrote.

Sent to Attorney General William Barr and Uttam Dhillon, the acting administrator of the DEA, the letter was led by Reps. Eric Swalwell, California Democrat, Matt Gaetz, Florida Republican, and Steve Cohen, Tennessee Democrat, and signed by three candidates currently campaigning to run against President Trump in 2020: Mr. Swalwell and fellow Democratic Reps. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii and Seth Moulton of Massachusetts.

Neither the Justice Department nor DEA immediately returned requests for comment.

Thirty-three states and D.C. have legalized the medicinal use of marijuana to varying degrees, including 10 that have gone further by legalizing recreational use for adults. Marijuana is considered a Schedule 1 drug under the U.S. Controlled Substances Act, however, effectively putting those laws in direct conflict with the federal government’s and accordingly creating complications for researchers and cultivators in addition to other medical and recreational marijuana industry stakeholders, including sellers and producers.


“The federal approval system is currently too difficult for cannabis researchers and scientists,” said Mr. Gaetz. “We must make it easier to research the medicinal benefits of cannabis.”

“Cannabis can provide safe and effective relief to suffering patients, but we need more research to deploy it,” agreed Mr. Peters.

Several bills currently pending on Capitol Hill would either rescheduled marijuana or remove it from under the CSA if passed.