(The above image was taken by Cannabis Wire co-founder and editor Alyson Martin at the federal cannabis research farm in Mississippi.)
Today, there is only one farm that produces research grade cannabis with the blessing of the U.S. government, and it’s at the University of Mississippi. That is about to change, albeit after years of delay. And some of the largest cannabis companies in the world are prepared to throw their hat in the ring, alongside mainstream research institutions.
At the year’s first cannabis hearing in Congress, which focused on hurdles to cannabis research, Matthew Strait, a senior policy advisor with the Drug Enforcement Administration, said that the agency already has draft regulation “in place,” adding that it was submitted for review by the White House Office of Management and Budget. (Read Cannabis Wire’s coverage of the hearing.)
This comes more than three years after the DEA first put out a call for applicants to manufacture research-grade cannabis, in 2016. Then, in August 2019, the DEA released an update that the Administration would first need to create a new regulatory framework to govern these cannabis growers. “Before making decisions on these pending applications, DEA intends to propose new regulations that will govern the marijuana growers program for scientific and medical research,” the Administration said.
In the meantime, more than thirty entities applied to the Drug Enforcement Administration between 2016 and 2018 to become registered bulk manufacturers of cannabis for research purposes.
Several of the largest cannabis companies in the US, like Columbia Care and PharmaCann, are on the list. Even one of the largest cannabis companies in the world, Canada’s Canopy Growth, through its wholly-owned subsidiary 7218737 Delaware Inc., also put in an application in February 2017.
Also on the list are major mainstream research institutions, including the Ohio-based Battelle. In addition to its extensive work with the US government on homeland and national security, Battelle partnered with Canopy Growth in 2018 for medical cannabis research and product development. Another name is Fraunhofer USA, the US arm of an entity with dozens of research institutes across Germany, which bills itself as “Europe’s largest application-oriented research organization.”
So why are these companies seeking to become registered with the DEA? “The federal government must do more to expand cannabinoid research,” Jeremy Unruh, director of public and regulatory affairs at PharmaCann, told Cannabis Wire.
The cannabis types produced by the University of Mississippi farm are not diversified enough to conduct wide-ranging research, Cindy Kiel, with the office of research at UC Davis told Cannabis Wire. And that is one of the main reasons why UC Davis said they applied to register with the DEA. (UC Davis entered into a research partnership with Biopharmaceutical Research Company, a manufacturer of plant-based therapeutics, which is also an applicant with the DEA to grow research-grade cannabis.)
“We applied to potentially have access to more varietals closer to what is being grown in the state of California,” Kiel said.
As to what DEA’s new regulations might be for the research program, Kiel said she anticipates rules on security, the varieties that would be allowed to be grown, the process for destruction of the product after the research is done, a tracking system for the plant, and limits on the volume of cannabis that is allowed to be grown. PharmaCann, too, is anticipating “regulations pertaining to security, consumer protections, and transportation,” Unruh said.
The list of the 33 applicants who applied between 2016 and 2018 to be registered cannabis manufacturers with the DEA:
- 7218737 Delaware Inc
- A and C Laboratories
- Abatin Cultivation Center
- Annac Medical Center LLC
- Battelle Memorial Institute
- Biopharmaceutical Research Company, LLC
- Cannamed Pharmaceuticals, Inc
- Columbia Care NY, LLC
- Contract Pharmacal Corp
- Confederated Tribes of the Colville
- Fraunhofer USA
- Gary Gray DBA Complex Pharmacist Owner
- GB Sciences, Inc. DBA GB Sciences Nevada, LLC
- Green Leaf Inc
- Hawaii Agriculture Research Institute
- Hemp CBD LLC
- JT Medical, LLC
- Maridose LLC
- MCRGC LLC
- Medpharm Research, LLC
- MMJ Biopharma Cultivation
- Modern Pharmacy, LLC
- National Center for Development of Natural Products, The University of Mississippi
- Nuvue Pharma, LLC
- Pharmacann LLC
- PS Patients Collective, Inc
- Scientific Botanical Pharmaceutical, Inc
- Scottsdale Research Institute
- The Giving Tree Wellness Center
- Trail Blazin’ Productions
- Ultra Rich CBD
- University of California, Davis
- University of Massachusetts