After nearly 4 years of what some researchers saw as foot dragging, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has announced it will evaluate 37 applications to grow marijuana for medical research and proposed new rules for the prospective growers that outline how the cannabis-growing program would work.
“The release of this framework is absolutely monumental and is the biggest, the most meaningful, and material progress made in federal cannabis policy in decades,” says George Hodgin, CEO of the Biopharmaceutical Research Company, one of the applicants. “It opens up a path for traditional drug development in the United States,” whereby researchers can conduct clinical trials and seek approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for marijuana-based therapies.
Not everyone shares Hodgin’s optimism. Federal rulemaking can take years because it involves soliciting and responding to public comments, not to mention potential litigation over the decision, says Shane Pennington, an attorney at Yetter Coleman LLP, a Houston law firm representing one of the applicants, the Scottsdale Research Institute (SRI). “DEA basically has … found a way to put this on the back burner a lot longer.”