The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is working to add more qualified marijuana growers that will be involved in drug research even as it is developing new regulations that will regulate marijuana growers for scientific and medical research.
The agency is providing notice of pending applications from entities applying to be registered to manufacture marijuana for researchers. “DEA anticipates that registering additional qualified marijuana growers will increase the variety of marijuana available for these purposes,” the agency said in a statement.
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Over the last two years, the total number of individuals registered by DEA to conduct research with marijuana, marijuana extracts, derivatives and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) has soared more than 40%—from 384 in January 2017 to 542 in January 2019.
Similarly, in the last 2 years, DEA has more than doubled the production quota for marijuana each year based on increased usage projections for federally approved research projects.
“DEA is making progress in the program to register additional marijuana growers for federally authorized research, and will work with other relevant federal agencies to expedite the necessary next steps,” said DEA Acting Administrator Uttam Dhillon. “We support additional research into marijuana and its components, and we believe registering more growers will result in researchers having access to a wider variety for study.”
Before making decisions on the pending applications, DEA intends to propose new regulations that will govern the marijuana growers’ program for scientific and medical research.
“The new rules will help ensure DEA can evaluate the applications under the applicable legal standard and conform the program to relevant laws,” DEA said. Applicants and the general public will have an opportunity to comment on the regulations that should govern the program.
Plus, as the result of a recent amendment to federal law, certain forms of cannabis no longer require DEA registration to grow or manufacture, the agency said.
The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, which was signed into law on Dec. 20, 2018, changed the definition of marijuana to exclude “hemp”—plant material that contains 0.3% or less delta-9 THC on a dry weight basis.
“Accordingly, hemp, including hemp plants and cannabidiol (CBD) preparations at or below the 0.3% delta-9 THC threshold, is not a controlled substance, and a DEA registration is not required to grow or research it,” the agency said.