Undisclosed law enforcement sources say that roadblocks to growing cannabis for research are coming from the highest levels of the Department of Justice and not necessarily the longtime pot haters at the DEA.
This revelation, made in a Washington Post article, followed recent press around the DEA’s refusal to issue licenses to grow medical cannabis for federal research. But Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barret report that, according to their sources, the DEA is ready to move forward on 25 proposals for consideration.
But the next step in that process is approval from a DOJ run by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and the DOJ’s current policy is to simply ignore requests to move forward on the Obama era lifting of restrictions on research.
In refusing to issue approval, Sessions has become a one man embargo on cannabis science in the United States. Meanwhile, places like Israel, Canada and England rush to learn as much they can about the medical benefits of cannabis.
Cannabis policy has been a prime stumbling block for Sessions since he took the reigns as the nation’s top law enforcement official. His level of disgust for cannabis is special: Imagine thinking the Klu Klux Klan were swell guys until you found out they smoked pot — that’s literally Sessions.
But erasing the blame of the DEA? That’s a tough pill to swallow for people who have watched the agency hinder cannabis research for years.
NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano says the existing monopoly on the cultivation of research cannabis remains in place today because the DEA explicitly set aside a legal opinion from its own Administrative Law Judge declaring that the agency should license private entities to grow cannabis for FDA-approved research.
“This is an example of the pot calling the kettle black,” Armentano said. “The DEA has long held a ‘flat Earth’ position with regard to cannabis… this is an issue driven by ideology, not by science.”
When asked if the 25 applicants in limbo right now came from the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s 2015 call for new cannabis cultivators, Armentano presumed that was the case.
Some longtime advocates like Mason Tvert, who led Colorado’s effort to legalize cannabis, were surprised to see the DOJ doing the blocking instead of the DEA, but stressed that, no matter who’s to blame, it’s bad policy.
“It is unfortunate that federal officials continue to hold up the process of studying cannabis,” Tvert said. “Nine out of 10 Americans think marijuana should be legal for medical use, and there is no rational reason to continue obstructing research into its wide variety of medical benefits.”
If the NIDA guidelines are to be used as an indicator of what they’re looking for in a federally approved pot farm, applicants would need to have some serious resources at the ready: “12 acres of outdoor growing space; a 1,000-square-foot indoor growing facility and a secure vault to maintain an inventory of approximately 400 to 700 kilograms of marijuana stock; cannabis extract and its drug dosage form; marijuana cigarettes and its active and inactive constituents under controlled conditions.”
TELL US, do you think the DEA is unfairly passing off blame onto the DOJ?