A year after the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) began accepting applications to grow cannabis for research it appears that the Department of Justice (DOJ), with the pressure of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, are blocking researchers from moving ahead with their proposals.
The DEA has received 25 research proposals, but so far none of them have been able to move forward. As part of the approval process, researchers must get final sign-off from the DOJ–and it’s no secret that Sessions is not a fan of weed.
“They’re sitting on it,” one law enforcement official told the Washington Post, “They just will not act on these things.”
A senior DEA official said that, “the Justice Department has effectively shut down this program to increase research registrations.”
The marijuana that researchers currently have access to is not what most people would consider weed. Since the late 1960s, all marijuana used in clinical research is required to come from a single government-run marijuana farm at the University of Mississippi. The problem is that the marijuana grown there doesn’t even really resemble the weed that’s sold at dispensaries, making it difficult for researchers to reach conclusions that are applicable to real-world use.
The quality of the government grown cannabis was so bad that Johns Hopkins University, which planned to begin a multiyear clinical trial studying cannabis and PTSD, backed out of the study.
One of the researchers who submitted a proposal to the DEA is Lyle Craker, a professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Craker submitted his last application in February but hasn’t heard back on his yet. He’s hoping to do research into whether other parts of the cannabis plant have medicinal value.
“I’ve filled out the forms, but I haven’t heard back from them. I assume they don’t want to answer,” said Craker. “They need to think about why they are holding this up when there are products that could be used to improve people’s health. I think marijuana has some bad effects, but there can be some good and without investigation we really don’t know.”