Cannabis researchers in the U.S. have often had their research efforts frustrated by the difficulties in being able to access marijuana and marijuana products. The problem has been that privately grown cannabis—even from state-licensed and compliant manufacturers—was not allowed in FDA-approved clinical trials. Instead, investigators were only allowed to obtain whole-plant cannabis from a single source: the University of Mississippi, which since 1968 was the only federally licensed source of cannabis cultivated for research purposes.
The good news is that change is afoot and quickly, following a September 9, 2020 vote by members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee to amend Congressman Earl Blumenauer’s HR 3797 bill: “The Marijuana Research Act of 2019”. The amended legislation expedites an approval process for newly-allowed federal cultivation applicants, and provides scientists with the option to utilize products manufactured by these state-licensed sources, not just the old official source.
“The bipartisan support of our legislation in [this] committee mark-up is an important step in removing unnecessary barriers to medical cannabis research and ensuring that patients, clinicians, and consumers can fully understand the benefits and risks of cannabis,” Rep. Blumenauer said.
Deputy Director Paul Armentano from the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) added that the new bill will “facilitate and expedite clinical cannabis research in the United States and provide important data regarding the safety and efficacy of real-world products.”
He added: “Rather than compelling scientists to access marijuana products of questionable quality manufactured by a limited number of federally licensed producers, federal regulators should allow investigators to access the cannabis and cannabis-infused products that are currently being produced in the legal marketplace by the multitude of state-sanctioned growers and retailers”.
Scientists have consistently criticized the poor quality of the University of Mississippi’s plants, which they say fail to accurately reflect the varieties of marijuana commercially available. For example scientists have only been able to select six varieties of pre-rolled cannabis cigarettes—none of which possess THC concentrations above seven percent—from the federal government’s marijuana menu, and tinctures and concentrates have not been available for clinical study at all.