Today, there are more federally-approved cannabis growers than ever before, but still only one federal supplier of research-grade cannabis. That, however, might soon change.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse, within the National Institutes of Health, recently issued a contract opportunity titled “Production of Cannabis and Related Materials for Research.” The contract was published on September 14, and proposals will be accepted until October 28.
This type of contract isn’t new; NIDA has procured cannabis for researchers for decades. But only last year did the Drug Enforcement Administration begin registering new growers of research-grade cannabis, expanding the number from one to seven. And, NIDA makes clear in its contract opportunity description, “all offerors must possess, at the time of proposal submission,” a DEA registration “for manufacture and distribution” of cannabis.
NIDA has ramped up its push for cannabis research in recent years. The agency announced unprecedented funding in September, as Cannabis Wire reported, and has issued “Special Interest” notices for “Public Health Research on Cannabis” to “encourage grant applications on the effects of changing cannabis laws and policies in the US and globally on public health.”
The seven eligible entities are: Biopharmaceutical Research Company LLC; Groff NA Hemplex LLC; Irvine Labs, Inc.; Maridose, LLC; National Center for Development of Natural Products; Royal Emerald Pharmaceuticals Research and Development; and Scottsdale Research Institute.
NIDA makes it clear that it might approve one, multiple, or no awards. However, should NIDA award a contract, it is expected to be in place from March 23, 2023 to March 22, 2028. And, the contract provides for up to $25 million worth of cannabis ordered.
“The Contractor,” NIDA writes, “shall perform” nine tasks. Tasks 1-3 total 3,500 kg of cGMP cannabis; tasks 4-5 total 1,500 kg cGMP placebo cannabis; tasks 6-8 involve cGMP and non-GMP cannabinoids and cannabinoid extract.
The current research supply of cannabis does not match what is available to consumers, in variety of cannabis products, or concentration of cannabinoids like THC. This gap is not lost on NIDA. Susan Weiss, the director of the Division of Extramural Research at NIDA, spoke about the state of cannabis research in October, and referenced the new DEA licenses.
“We’re very happy that that has happened,” Weiss said. “We’ve tried to diversify the types of cannabis that we have available for research, but we’re still limited relative to what is out there. And having additional growers, I think, might be able to really help expand the types of research that we can do, both for medicinal use, just as well as effects.”