Marijuana For Research

Last month the DEA refused to reschedule cannabis. But the agency also said it would facilitate cannabis research by allowing more people to grow cannabis for research purposes. Now, less than one month after the DEA’s announcement, it seems that plans to improve cannabis research are already flopping. Here’s why.

Looking For Cannabis Growers

To make cannabis more accessible to researchers, the DEA is now accepting applications to become a federally approved cannabis grower. Anybody who gets this approval would essentially be contracted to grow weed for federally approved research projects.

You’d think this would be a gold mine and that tons of people would jump at the chance to land one of these potentially huge contracts. But so far, there haven’t been any takers.

In fact, one source just reported that tons of universities have turned down invitations to become DEA-sanctioned growers. Schools like Cornell, University of Kentucky, Virginia Tech, Michigan State, a few University of California campuses, Colorado State University, and many more have all said no when the DEA asked them if they wanted to start growing marijuana.

It seems like landing one of these contracts would be a big deal. So why isn’t anybody taking the DEA up on its offer? It turns out that the DEA’s anti-cannabis rules are already sabotaging any effort to improve cannabis research.

Expensive Security Requirements

One of the biggest problems is that it’s hard—and incredibly expensive—to meet the government’s security requirements for growers. Anybody with a federal contract to grow cannabis for research has to comply with a strict set of rules to ensure the grow site meets the DEA’s security regulations.

One expert said that the infrastructure necessary to meet those requirements would cost several million dollars. And that’s just upfront construction. Maintaining all that security is another cost entirely.

And this is all before anybody ever gets around to cultivating any cannabis. At this point, the DEA’s security requirements are just too expensive to make becoming a grower a feasible idea.

Where Will Growers Get Their Plants And Seeds?

Assuming somebody is willing to spend enough money to build DEA-approved growing facilities, there’s still the problem of where they’d get their plants and seeds.  Since cannabis is still illegal at the federal level, a DEA-approved grow operation wouldn’t be allowed just to go pick up some plants or seeds from any non-approved supplier.

It could get plants from the federal government’s current marijuana grow site at the University of Mississippi. But that wouldn’t expand the genetic range of cannabis available to researchers.

A lot of scientists have already said that relying on University of Mississippi cannabis limits the amount of research they can do. So simply growing more of the same stuff already being grown wouldn’t help advance cannabis research.

Again, the DEA’s refusal to reclassify cannabis is making it impossible to further cannabis research.

What About Private Growers?

OK, so even if universities don’t want to go through all the trouble of becoming a DEA-approved grower, what about private grow operations that are already up and running? Most of them already have the security in place to satisfy the DEA’s requirements. So couldn’t they just start growing for the government?

This seems like a pretty obvious solution. But once again the DEA has already sabotaged this possibility as well. The agency said that it would consider whether or not a grow applicant had “engaged in an illegal activity involving controlled substances . . . Regardless of whether such activity is permissible under state law.”

Since cannabis is illegal at the federal level, any grow operation already in existence is already breaking federal laws. And the DEA would count that against them pretty heavily. As a result, experts think it’s unlikely that an already existing grow operation would get DEA approval.

The Final Hit

Many in the cannabis community were disappointed by the DEA’s decision last month. But many of them thought that the DEA’s focus on improving research was a positive step.

Unfortunately, it looks like the DEA’s promise to make cannabis more accessible to researchers is already turning out to be a hollow one. That’s because the DEA’s own rules are making it effectively impossible for anyone to become a new federally approved grower.