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DEA Changes Research Application Process for Schedule I Drugs

Schedule I
Photo Gracie Malley for Cannabis Now


DEA Changes Research Application Process for Schedule I Drugs

The DEA says an online application process will make studying Schedule I substances, like marijuana, more streamlined.

Today the DEA announced would be streamlining the application process for research into Schedule I narcotics by taking the process online.

Cannabis, in the eyes of the federal government, currently sits on that list of Schedule I narcotics alongside things like the opioids fueling the crisis that literally dropped the U.S. life expectancy rate last year and a bunch of fake pot chemical compounds recently added to the list following some fatalities. But today at least, the DEA chose to use LSD and ecstasy as their examples of America’s most dangerous substances of abuse.

For years drugs designated Schedule I have been the hardest substances to study in the U.S., with cannabis being one of the trickiest among the pack. The Controlled Substances Act requires researchers who wish to study a Schedule I substance to register with DEA. They are required to provide information about their qualifications, research protocol and the institution that will host the research.

The process to achieve this researcher status has definitely taken its toll on the rainforest since the Controlled Substances Act first kicked in at the beginning of the 1970s. When you see the mountain of paperwork it would take to make this happen, especially in regards to multi-phased research, it’s no shock many people in the business have a Ph.D. or  are trying to get one. With today’s announcement, the DEA goes a bit greener by bringing the process online.

“We are committed to finding new and innovative ways to meet the needs of the research community,” said Acting DEA Administrator Robert W. Patterson in the announcement. “Research is the bedrock of science, and we will — as we have for many years — continue to support and promote legitimate research with Schedule I controlled substances.”

According to the DEA, as of December 2017 more than 590 researchers were registered to study Schedule I substances. But from there, things get a bit more of an interpretive activity, with the statement claiming:

“Every researcher who has submitted a valid research proposal has been approved.”

For the folks who’ve followed cannabis research efforts over the last few years, they just want researchers who applied to be research-grade cannabis providers 2016 to be given an answer.

Cannabis advocates in D.C. had their own take on the news.

“While any progress towards easing restrictions on cannabis research at the federal level is a net positive, it is important to note very little has been done to address the many aspects surrounding this issue,” NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri told Cannabis Now. “Entities that applied via their August 2016 regulations to be research-grade cannabis providers still await any response from the DEA and, 18-months later, there are still no licensed alternatives to NIDA and no timeline regarding when any decisions will be made.”

Morgan Fox of the Marijuana Policy Project found it telling that the DEA didn’t mention marijuana but acknowledged, “it is tough to tell exactly what that means though.”

Fox thinks the real question is whether this streamlining will translate to the application approval process at main DOJ.

“If you recall, interim DEA executive director Chuck Rosenberg was critical of the DOJ for holding up the research applications that had already been approved by DEA just before he resigned. I tend to doubt that there has been any change since then,” said Fox.

As for the researchers, Brad Burge of MAPS tells us it’s going to be a bit of a wait and see game.

“As of now, it’s not clear to us how much easier this will make the process of obtaining a DEA license to conduct research with Schedule I drugs,” Burge said. “It’s possible that having an online application will streamline the process, since previously first-time applicants had to submit requests by regular post. It’s also possible that it will make the process more difficult, since an online form could make it more difficult for researchers to submit supplementary information and explanatory letters. Researchers will need to wait and see how it works out in practice.”

According to MAPS Founder Rick Doblin, the primary limitation on research with cannabis is not expediting the process of giving Schedule I licenses to researchers but rather, the DEA needs to license new producers of cannabis to end the NIDA monopoly. He also said the DEA is ready to issue licenses as far as he could tell but Attorney General Sessions is obstructing the process.

TELL US, do think bringing the application online will make it easier to study the medical aspects of cannabis?

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