Federal Court Dismisses Weed Researchers' Lawsuit Against the DEA
The lawsuit demanded that the DEA take action on approving three-year-old applications from institutions looking to grow high-quality weed for scientific research.
Published on October 21, 2019

A federal judge has tossed out a potentially groundbreaking lawsuit that would have forced the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to approve more institutions to grow legal weed for research purposes.

Back in the 1960s, the DEA licensed the University of Mississippi to legally grow a small crop of cannabis to be made available to scientists for research. But the quality of this research grass has remained appallingly poor; and in recent years, a growing number of researchers have outright refused to work with this so-called “ditch weed.” After receiving scores of angry letters from researchers and politicians, the DEA finally agreed to issue new licenses to third-party cultivators who could provide higher-quality products.

In August of 2016, the DEA accepted applications from 33 institutions vying for a chance to grow federally-sanctioned research pot. This process was put on hold by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, however, and despite another wave of angry letters, these applications collected dust for three whole years. This June, the Scottsdale Research Institute (SRI) took legal action to advance the process, suing the DEA and demanding that these applications be considered.

In July, a federal court ordered the DEA to officially explain the reasoning behind this epic delay. Just days before the court-ordered deadline, DEA officials said that they were finally working on the approval process for these applications. The agency noted that it fully supported boosting both the quality and quantity of research weed, but no concrete timetable for this process was given. The agency only said that they would propose new regulations for research cultivators in the “near future.”

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This promise, however vague, was apparently a sufficient enough explanation for the federal court. Last week, the court ruled that the DEA had fulfilled its obligations, rendering the suit “now moot,” Marijuana Moment reports. “The Court dismissed our case because, according to the Court, DEA gave us the relief we had requested,” said attorney Matt Zorn, who was involved in the case.

“The Court also declined to maintain jurisdiction over the case, because it did not find a history of chronic delay or bad faith in the record,” Zorn added. “But it also indicated that we could return to court if DEA significantly delays going forward.”

Dr. Sue Sisley, a researcher with SRI, said that she believed her case “moved the ball forward for everyone,” even if it was eventually dismissed. “We would have liked to take the case one step further to ensure that all 33 applications are processed promptly,” she added. “Protecting the health and welfare of our nation’s medically ill patients ought to be a national priority for this administration.”

“By delaying these 33 applications, the administration has prevented our US scientists from investigating the clinical efficacy of real-world cannabis to treat combat veterans with PTSD,” said Dr. Sisley. “Fortunately, the Court’s order today allows us to return to court for additional relief if Trump’s DOJ/DEA continues to violate the law and put public health at risk through delay or otherwise.”

Chris Moore
Chris Moore is a New York-based writer who has written for Mass Appeal while also mixing records and producing electronic music.
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