Lawsuit Against the DEA for Delaying Marijuana Research Dismissed in Federal Court

A lawsuit filed by a group of marijuana researchers earlier this year, which ultimately led to long-awaited action from DEA, was dismissed last week by a U.S. Court of Appeals.

A federal court dismissed a lawsuit filed against the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), but the marijuana research group behind the litigation is not backing down.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit last week determined that DEA had fulfilled its requirement by moving forward in the application review process for marijuana manufacturing licenses.

The federal agency announced in August it would take action on the more than 30 submissions from research-grade marijuana growers it’s received, but due to an “unprecedented” volume of inquiries would need time to develop new regulations. DEA had not approved or denied any submissions in the three-plus years since it started accepting them.

While the researchers at Scottsdale Research Institute (SRI) who filed the suit may have not got the outcome they hoped, the lawsuit did force DEA to take action. SRI researcher Sue Sisley told Marijuana Moment that although the case was ultimately dismissed, it “moved the ball forward for everyone.”

“We would have liked to take the case one step further to ensure that all 33 applications are processed promptly—protecting the health and welfare of our nation’s medically ill patients ought to be a national priority for this administration,” Sisley told Marijuana Moment.

“By delaying these 33 applications, the administration has prevented our US scientists from investigating the clinical efficacy of real-world cannabis to treat combat veterans with PTSD. Fortunately, the Court’s order today allows us to return to court for additional relief if Trump’s DOJ/DEA continues to violate the law and put public health at risk through delay or otherwise,” she added.

Matt Zorn, an attorney who was involved in the suit, told Marijuana Moment that the court dismissed the case because it determined DEA had sufficiently met the demand requested in the original lawsuit.

The original suit was brought forth in June when SRI requested that the federal court force DEA to respond to its application, which researchers claimed was being willfully ignored. The research company had been waiting several years for a response from DEA.

“The Court also declined to maintain jurisdiction over the case, because it did not find a history of chronic delay or bad faith in the record,” Zorn said. “But it also indicated that we (SRI) could return to court if DEA significantly delays going forward.”

Timeline of Marijuana Research Action by DEA

DEA announced in 2016 it was adopting a new policy to encourage more cannabis research by allowing more growers to apply for research licenses. With this move, eager scientific researchers sent in applications to grow their own cannabis to perform studies.

No action has been taken by DEA to approve or disapprove of applications, even as dozens of lawmakers made public calls for action. Support for research marijuana applications came from both Republican and Democratic lawmakers.

This past June, SRI filed a lawsuit against DEA, arguing that they needed adequate cannabis in order to further studies. SRI researchers claimed that cannabis produced by the University of Mississippi, the only federally authorized cultivation facility, was not up to par for the research company’s clinical trial on the use of cannabis.

In response to the lawsuit, the federal appellate court demanded DEA respond, giving the agency a 30-day deadline. On Aug. 26, DEA announced it would move forward on research applications, a response the court found acceptable.

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