Feds Double Down on Research Weed Monopoly in Defiance of US House Vote
The US National Institute on Drug Abuse just awarded a one-year extension to the world’s worst weed grower, and America’s scientists are pissed.
Published on December 15, 2020

The one lone institution legally authorized to grow cannabis for research purposes in the US will be allowed to continue its monopoly for at least one more year, according to a new notice published by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

In the late ‘60s, the federal government granted the University of Mississippi the exclusive right to grow limited quantities of cannabis for medical research. Over the past fifty years, this institution has become notorious for producing some of the lowest-quality schwag that the world has ever seen. Researchers have found that this government grass is packed with stems, seeds, mold, and other pathogens. On top of all that, an independent study found that the university’s research cannabis is actually closer to hemp than marijuana, meaning the government’s weed isn’t nearly as potent as the stuff found in cannabis dispensaries.

NIDA has acknowledged that clinical cannabis research studies “require a source of cannabis materials with consistent and predictable potency, free of contamination and in sufficient amounts to support a wide variety of research needs.” But even though researchers made it clear that the University of Mississippi does not provide cannabis that meets their needs, the feds have decided to extend the university's contract anyway. 

Last week, NIDA published a “pre-solicitation non-competitive” notice announcing that it plans to extend the University of Mississippi's exclusive contract from March 2021 until 2022, Marijuana Moment reported. The contract also includes an option to extend the contract for an additional year beyond that. “Only one responsible source and no other supplies or services will satisfy agency requirements,” the agency wrote.

The notice explained that the contract’s main objectives were to “extract cannabis to produce pure and standardized (current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP)-grade) cannabis extracts containing varying concentrations of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD)” and to “supply cannabis, cannabis extract, other cannabinoids, and marijuana cigarettes” to American researchers.

Despite these requirements, the University of Mississippi only provides seven types of pre-rolled joints, and none of them contain more than 8 percent THC content or one percent CBD. This limitation hasn't stopped NIDA from renewing the university's contract, though. In the notice, NIDA stated that it welcomes interested parties to submit their own proposals for becoming government-approved weed growers, but clarifies that it will not be “providing for full and open competition” until 2022 at the earliest.

The medical research community has been fighting to break the University of Mississippi's monopoly on research weed for years now. After receiving hundreds of letters from researchers and politicians, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) began accepting applications for additional research weed cultivators in 2016. But after receiving dozens of applications, the DEA went silent on the matter.

After numerous lawsuits, a federal judge finally forced the DEA to make good on its promise. This year, the agency announced that it needed to update its regulations in order to approve the applications, but has yet to enact this necessary change. In the meantime, more scientists have sued the DEA alleging that it is deliberately delaying the process and using “secret” documents to justify these delays.

In the meantime, lawmakers may have found a way to circumvent this ongoing problem. Last week, the US House of Representatives passed the Medical Marijuana Research Act (MMRA), a bill that would legally allow scientists to obtain cleaner and more potent research weed from state-legal dispensaries. Whether the GOP-controlled Senate will also greenlight the bill remains uncertain, but the fact that the bill has strong bipartisan support suggests that it just might pass.

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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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