Federal Court Orders DEA To Provide Answers On Marijuana Research Block

The DEA has 30 days to respond to a lawsuit alleging that the government agency has “unreasonably delayed” to act on medical marijuana research applications.

A federal appellate court has ordered the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to respond within 30 days to a lawsuit claiming the agency has blocked medical marijuana research. The order was handed down on July 29 from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

According to court documents published by Marijuana Moment, researchers from the Scottsdale Research Institute (SRI) have been waiting for 30 months to get the green light on an application filed to continue a research study of medical marijuana and U.S military veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The stall came after the 2016 announcement by the DEA that they had a new policy to increase the number of entities permitted to grow cannabis for clinical trials and other research. At the time there was only one clinical grow site permitted in the entire U.S. on a 12-acre farm at the University of Mississippi.

With hopes to improve their cannabis research, SRI applied to grow their own plants in 2017. Since then there has been no response by the DEA to their application and there has been no additional permitted cannabis grow sites for clinical research.

“Thus, the agency action has been unlawfully withheld. And in view of an express directive to prioritize applications relating to clinical research, agency action has most certainly been unreasonably delayed,” researchers stated in the court petition.

The scientists filed their lawsuit against the DEA on June 11.

The research study being conducted by SRI began in 2014 and is authorized by the FDA, DEA, and Institutional Review Boards (IRBs). In 2017, SRI began screening participants at a clinic in Phoenix, Ariz.

The D.C. Court of Appeals is the highest court for the District and is the equivalent of a state supreme court.

Pressure Mounts on DEA to Take Action

In June, a U.S. Court of Appeals put more pressure on the DEA to make a decision on rescheduling cannabis. In that case, a group of cannabis advocates filed a case against the U.S. Department of Justice. Those advocates include former NFL player Marvin Washington, an Army veteran who suffers from PTSD, a girl suffering from epileptic seizures, and a child with Leigh’s Disease.

The district court did not rule in favor of the plaintiffs, but instead held the case in order to gain a response from the DEA on federal scheduling of cannabis. The DEA has yet to respond on the issue of rescheduling.

Other efforts at the federal level continue to focus on cannabis research. In late June, a new bipartisan bill was introduced encouraging research on the potential wellness benefits of marijuana and CBD. If approved, the legislation would place a 60-day deadline on the attorney general to either approve or ask for more information in response to a marijuana research application.

The bill would also place a 30-deadline on the attorney general after supplemental information is provided, to approve or reject applications.

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To find out more about cannabis research and what is next in federal regulations on cannabis, visit our news page.