15 U.S. Representatives Seek Answers on Cannabis Research Holdup in Letter to DEA and Sessions

The bipartisan group requested clarification on why none of the two-dozen applications from research-grade marijuana producers have been reviewed.

Fifteen members of the United States House of Representatives are demanding answers as to why the federal government has yet to approve any additional domestic research-grade marijuana producers.

In a September 28 letter to Acting Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Uttam Dhillon and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the bipartisan group of lawmakers questioned why no additional manufacturers have been approved since the DEA opened the availability of licenses more than two years ago.

“Considering the recent decision by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to approve the importation from Canada of marijuana for research, we write with deep concern and with questions over the delay in approving additional approved domestic manufacturers of cannabis for this same purpose,” wrote the lawmakers.

Scientists looking to study the effects of marijuana are currently limited to obtaining cannabis from a single source in contract with the National Institute on Drug Abuse – the University of Mississippi – leading to delays and hindering the collection of data. Additionally, this sole source of research-grade cannabis has been criticized for supplying low quality materials.

To facilitate research efforts, the DEA opened the availability of growing licenses. Growers immediately responded, and more than two-dozen applications from domestic manufacturers of cannabis have been submitted so far. The DEA, however, has yet to act on any and Sessions’ Department of Justice, which must sign off on the applications, has been accused of purposely holding up the process.

Led by Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and Eric Swalwell (D-CA), the group of lawmakers requested a “prompt response” to four inquiries, including:

  • The current status of the 26 cannabis manufacturer applications and how long each has been pending.
  • The steps that the DEA and DOJ have taken to review the applications and the reasons why no applications have been approved.
  • An estimation of when the DEA and DOJ will finish reviewing the applications.
  • How many other DEA registrations the DOJ has reviewed over the past 12 months.

With the DEA recently granting approval of the importation of cannabis from Canada to supply research at the Center for Medical Cannabis Research at the University of California San Diego, the lawmakers also asked why Donald Trump’s “Buy American” policy doesn’t apply to cannabis.

“On April 18, 2017, President Trump issued an executive order to “Buy American and Hire American.” Despite the Department of Justice (DOJ) and DEA possessing over two dozen applications from qualified domestic manufacturers, however, DEA approved the importation of cannabis products from Canada,” the lawmakers wrote.

The 15 lawmakers who signed the letter include:

  • Matt Gaetz (R-FL 1st District)
  • Eric Swalwell (D-CA 15th District)
  • Eric Blumenauer (D-OR 3rd District)
  • Steve Cohen (D-TN 9th District)
  • Peter DeFazio (D-OR 4th District)
  • Pramila Jayapal (D-WA 7th District)
  • Zoe Lofgren (D-CA 19th District)
  • Seth Moulton (D-MA 6th District)
  • Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC)
  • Jimmy Panetta (D-CA 20th District)
  • Chellie Pingree (D-ME 1st District)
  • Jared Polis (D-CO 2nd District)
  • Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA 48th District)
  • Darren Soto (D-FL 9th District)

Lawmakers Demanding Answers

Members of Congress have repeatedly pressed the DEA and the DOJ for answers since the agency began accepting licenses for research-grade cannabis cultivators.

Gaetz, Rohrabacher, Polis, and Blumenauer sent a similar letter to Sessions more than a year ago, asking him to explain whether he has purposely directed the Justice Department to stall medical marijuana research.

About a month ago, 14 members of Congress – including both Republicans and Democrats – sent a letter to Sessions urging him to stop obstructing cannabis research efforts.

Sens. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) have sent multiple letters to Sessions requesting that he resolve outstanding applications. Hatch also joined seven other senators in July in signing a letter requesting answers related to the status of the marijuana manufacturer applications.

Research Continues Regardless

While regulations have hindered the collection of data, researchers have made exciting discoveries about cannabis and its therapeutic potential for various ailments. Learn more about these findings through our education page.

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