Increased Federal Cannabis Research May Signal Future Legalization

For over 50 years, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has relied on a single farm located at the University of Mississippi to supply all of the cannabis biomass needed to conduct their marijuana research. And for a time, the National Center for the Development of Natural Products (NCDNP) was the only federally approved supplier of bulk flower to be used for cannabis research.

The DEA Expands Federal Cannabis Research

In recent months, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has extended additional licenses to cultivators to help ramp up their own research into the potential therapeutic benefits, as well as possible side effects of cannabis. Within the last week, NIDA published a proposal pursuing North American companies with the ability to grow, harvest, and test roughly four million grams (nearly four and a half tons) of marijuana within a five-year period.

The main goal is to provide NIDA with enough material to support extensive, federally sanctioned cannabis research. For scientific accuracy, the NIDA needs the flower to be consistent by adhering to the following requirements and characteristics:

  • Predictable potency
  • Tested and free of contamination
  • Cultivated in large batches to handle a wide range of research projects

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), most of the current research has focused on the potential harms of THC. It is for this reason they have currently put out a request for information, asking the scientific community about their interest and hesitations in researching the health effects of cannabis. The NIDA also plans to provide $1.5 million dollars to help support the development of a medical marijuana registry that will track how medical patients are consuming cannabis and their health outcomes.

Could Increased Research Be a Sign of Future Legalization?

The possibility of one or more new facilities producing cannabis for research into the benefits of cannabis is a welcomed sign for the industry. The current facility’s product is closer to wild hemp than it is to the marijuana that is sold in legal states. The industry has been pushing for years to get biomass that is more aligned with what is being consumed by patients and adult users — and if all goes well they will be getting just that. This will be a big step in the right direction and could help generate a pathway to federal legalization.

Interested in becoming a facility for this research project? You have until October 28, 2022, to submit your completed proposal to the NIDA. Your facility must be in possession of a Schedule I research registration granted by the DEA as well as meet the long list of requirements that are laid out in the 172-page proposal. If you’re a new applicant, here is a great place to start.

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