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Congress Demands Answers From Attorney General on Medical Cannabis Research Delays

Congress Demands Federal Support for Cannabis Research
Photo by Gracie Malley for Cannabis Now

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Congress Demands Answers From Attorney General on Medical Cannabis Research Delays

While the fallout from the Mueller report is currently steering Attorney General William Barr into rough waters, Congress also took the moment this week to renew their call for answers around the current status of marijuana research.

On Tuesday, a bipartisan coalition of 30 members of Congress asked U.S. Attorney General William Barr to give them answers on the current effort, or lack thereof, to expand marijuana research inside the United States.

The effort was led by presidential candidate Rep. Eric Swalwell of California, with support from Reps. Matt Gaetz and Steve Cohen. The group noted some had previously written to the Department of Justice and the DEA last September, when the DOJ was under the leadership of Jeff Sessions, stressing that they had to write again because “the matter is of such importance.”  

The coalition of representatives asked the DOJ about the domestic delay in approving manufacturers of research-grade marijuana in the U.S., especially considering that Sessions previously allowed the DEA to approve imports from Canada specifically for research. (At the time, the congressional members also noted that “adding insult to injury” was the fact a University of California school had not received approval for cannabis samples from the federal government, but another University of California school eventually receive the Canadian imports.)

Now, eight months removed from the original letter, the language Congress is using to talk pot with the embattled Barr appears to be a bit firmer than the language they used with his predecessor. With Barr, the letter started with the fact that the FDA has approved a medicine derived from the cannabis plant means there is clear proof that we need better access to research-grade medicine grown in the United States. 

“The application process to research cannabis is one that is arduous and long.”

“Unfortunately, the federal government stands in the way,” the letter to Barr read. “The application process to research cannabis is one that is arduous and long. First, one who wishes to engage in this research must at the very least work with three separate federal entities: the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), DEA, and FDA. Approval is required by DEA, which involves a site inspection, and FDA. This is not including any involvement by governments at the state or local level.”

The second problem the letter addressed was that the Universitiy of Mississippi has the only cannabis grow that can provide flower to the U.S. research community. From Congress’s understanding, there are a lot of delays “and the cannabis itself is generally regarded as having poor quality.”

In addition to the subpar quality, the letter noted UMiss does not provide individual cannabinoids: “It is thus not surprising that those who want to research cannabis are frustrated. 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.”

The one optimistic point of the letter was that the representatives were happy with the actual streamlining of the DEA’s application process, but that’s about it. They noted John Hudak of the Brookings Institute says the updated application process was “just a drop in the bucket” of what needed to be done by Congress. The letter admitted that the DEA has increased the annual quota for the amount of cannabis being produced, but that won’t remedy all the other bottlenecks in the process.

Congress wants to know what Barr is considering modifying in the application process so it’s faster and also asked what additional resources they could provide to get the ball rolling. They left him with four questions they’ve previously asked and have yet to receive an answer on.

1. What is the current status of the 26 cannabis manufacturer applications? How long has each been pending before DOJ and DEA?

2. What steps have the DEA and DOJ taken to review the cannabis manufacturer applications currently pending? What are the reasons these applications have not been approved?

3. When do you estimate the DEA and DOJ will complete their review of all of the cannabis manufacturing applications and begin approving some as new manufacturers?

4. In the past 12 months, excluding Schedule I Bulk Manufacturer registrations for cannabis, how many other DEA registrations has DOJ reviewed?

The members of Congress who signed the letter say they look forward to Barr’s prompt response. It appears unlikely that they will receive one.

TELL US, do you think the government should approve more cannabis research?

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Jimbo

    May 11, 2019 at 7:19 pm

    Maybe Congress should consider repramanding the DEA and cutting their funding? The last I heard, “WE THE PEOPLE” didn’t VOTE for DEA agents so why are they even considered to be the final authority and have the final say where Cannabis is concerned anyway? Shouldn’t that be the job of the people WE vote into power?

    The fact that Cannabis has a track record of 0 deaths in human history should be enough reason to realize that all this “RESEARCH” they claim they need is just more stall tactics for the enevitable legalization of the plant. The research has already been done time and time again so let’s get past this and get on with it!

    Elected officials should be calling the shots, not enforcement agencies with bias agendas and militant ideals.

    I say it’s time for our elected reps to sack up and take control of these government enforcement agencies and quit letting them stand in the way of what the people who pay their salaries want!!!

  2. YearofAction

    May 10, 2019 at 9:46 pm

    The government should approve more cannabis research, and the correct way to allow the research to begin is for Congress to reform the persistently malformed federal definition of marihuana. The DEA, the US Attorney General, or the President can reinterpret the existing malformed definition, but that is not likely. It is basically up to Congress to reform the definition, and we the people can tell them how do that.

    Since the original definition was malformed, it was strategically misconstrued to interpret the term “marihuana” to mean the plant Cannabis sativa L. The definition has been reformed twice more, and each reform has retained the original malformed text in order to preserve the unnecessary misconstruction that improperly prohibits cannabis under the guise of “marihuana” prohibition.

    The Original malformed definition:
    (1937): MARIHUANA: (b) The term “marihuana” means all parts of the plant Cannabis sativa L., whether growing or not; the seeds thereof; the resin extracted from any part of such plant; and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of such plant, its seeds, or resin- but shall not include the mature stalks of such plant, fiber produced from such stalks, oil or cake made from the seeds of such plant, any other compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of such mature stalks (except the resin extracted therefrom), fiber, oil, or cake, or the sterilized seed of such plant which is incapable of germination.

    The Scheduled malformed definition:
    (1970): (16) The term “marihuana” means all parts of the plant Cannabis sativa L., whether growing or not; the seeds thereof; the resin extracted from any part of such plant; and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of such plant, its seeds or resin. Such term does not include the mature stalks of such plant, fiber produced from such stalks, oil or cake made from the seeds of such plant, any other compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of such mature stalks (except the resin extracted therefrom), fiber, oil, or cake, or the sterilized seed of such plant which is incapable of germination.

    (1970): Schedule I. (A) The drug or other substance has a high potential for abuse.

    The Exempted malformed definition:
    (2018): MARIHUANA: (16)(A) Subject to subparagraph (B), the term “marihuana” means all parts of the plant Cannabis sativa L., whether growing or not; the seeds thereof; the resin extracted from any part of such plant; and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of such plant, its seeds or resin.
    (B) The term “marihuana” does not include (i) hemp, as defined in section 297A of the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946; or (ii) the mature stalks of such plant, fiber produced from such stalks, oil or cake made from the seeds of such plant, any other compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of such mature stalks (except the resin extracted therefrom), fiber, oil, or cake, or the sterilized seed of such plant which is incapable of germination.

    (2018): Sec. 297A: (1) HEMP. The term “hemp” means the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of that plant, including the seeds thereof and all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts, and salts of isomers, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.

    Each of the definitions can be re-interpreted to distinguish “marihuana” from cannabis. The necessary and proper re-interpretation will clearly describe how the familiar, anglicized, and legally equivalent term “marijuana” is actually derived from cannabis.

    The current definition can be re-interpreted because it is extensively malformed, the re-interpretation can be used to reconstruct the definition, and the reconstructed definition can become the fourth reform of the definition. Congress can invoke Section 5 of the 14th Amendment to reform the definition so that it specifically restores and protects the privileges and immunities of citizens to grow cannabis that were established by Section 1 of the 14th Amendment.

    This reformed definition will carefully de-schedule cannabis to allow more research of cannabis, which can then be used to determine whether to remove marijuana itself from Schedule 1, or to de-schedule it:

    The term “marijuana” means all parts of the smoke produced by the combustion of the plant Cannabis sativa L. which is, as are the viable seeds of such plant, prohibited to be grown by or sold by any publicly traded corporation or subsidiary company, and such smoke is prohibited to be inhaled by any child or by any person bearing any firearm, as is the intake of any part or any product of such plant containing more than 0.3% THC by weight unless prescribed to such child by an authorized medical practitioner.

    This reformed federal definition of marijuana will restrain the States from maliciously misconstruing federal marijuana law, and it will preclude corporations from enticing children to “smoke marijuana”. It will also help to prevent misconstruction or abuse of the Constitution’s powers, extend the ground of public confidence in the Government, and best ensure the beneficent ends of its institution, as well as establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, by adhering to the self-evident truths that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, and that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

    More citizens should contact their members of Congress about invoking Section 5 to restore and protect their privileges and immunities to grow cannabis that were established by Section 1, as well as restore the rights of people to use cannabis which were established by the 9th and 10th Amendments, by enacting this reformed definition that upholds our Constitution.

  3. William Cabe

    May 10, 2019 at 4:45 am

    FREE THE GOD GIVEN PLANT

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