DEA Gives Green Light to Two More Companies to Grow Weed for Research
It’s one of several steps the federal government has taken this year to encourage the scientific exploration of cannabis.
Published on January 8, 2022

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The DEA has finally begun the process of certifying companies to provide weed to scientists in clinical trials, an important step in making cannabis research easier to do. Two firms based in California and Pennsylvania, respectively, are beginning to cultivate the plant for scientific purposes after receiving a go-ahead from the feds, according to Marijuana Moment

Historically, there have been many barriers to studying cannabis’ effects on our bodies. Even if scientists get credentialed to conduct experiments featuring a Schedule I drug (like cannabis), the cannabis provided by the feds for experiments is god-awful. That’s because until now, the University of Mississippi has been the sole facility licensed to grow research weed for federal research. And it’s been this way for over a half century. 

But this week, Marijuana Moment writes that the publication was contacted by the two new cultivation companies in question, the Pennsylvania-based Groff North America Hemplex and California’s Biopharmaceutical Research Company (BRC), which said they’ve already begun growing government weed. The product will not be going straight to the labs — for now, at least. The companies have only been given the green light to grow for “internal quality control and calibration purposes, with the intent of later being approved to sell products to DEA to be distributed for clinical research and drug development,” says Marijuana Moment

The companies’ announcement of being potential new sources for research weed showed good timing. Issues surrounding stringent bureaucratic limitations on cannabis research rose to the fore once again this week when a New York Times article dropped lambasting ambiguous drug trial information provided by a maker of appetite-curbing THCV gummies. 

President Biden’s administration has been ridiculed for its inaction on cannabis legalization and pardoning non-violent offenders convicted of cannabis-related crimes. But, the DEA has taken some steps forward during Biden’s time in office that indicate that the agency is beginning to grasp the importance of research on this prohibited psychoactive substance. In November, the agency announced that it was not only raising production quotas for research-earmarked cannabis, but also psilocybin, MDMA, and DMT. 

Certainly, supply of cannabis is not the only challenge to scientists looking to patch up the gaping holes in our medical understanding of marijuana. At the moment, special permissions are necessary for researchers who handle cannabis — which, let’s not forget, is in the most-restrictive Schedule I category of controlled substances.

But that, too, could be due for a change: In December, the DEA indicated in a letter to members of US Congress that it is on board for suggested changes by the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy to make Schedule I research licenses more similar to the Schedule II licenses. That policy shift would involve eliminating required evaluations by the secretary of health and human services as to the fitness of the research team and the worth of the study itself. 

For a president struggling with some of his worst ratings yet, promoting cannabis research seems like a potentially easy political basket. After all, among the plant’s detractors and advocates, who in good faith would not be in favor of getting hard facts on cannabis’ effects on the body?

Caitlin Donohue
Caitlin Donohue is a Bay Area-raised, Mexico City-based cannabis writer and author of She Represents: 44 Women Who Are Changing Politics and the World. Her weekly show Crónica on Radio Nopal explores Mexican marijuana culture and politics in the prohibition era. Follow Caitlin on IG @byrdwatch.
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