As readers of this blog already may know, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) currently allows cannabis – consisting of the marijuana plant, with greater than 0.3% THC content – to be grown for research purposes at only one location: The University of Mississippi. This past June, the Scottsdale Research Institute (SRI) challenged this federally-imposed limitation in court. SRI filed a Petition with the D.C. Circuit – the appellate court often charged with reviewing federal agency policies – arguing that the DEA’s limitations are arbitrary and capricious, and that additional facilities and universities should be allowed to grow the cannabis plant for study.
The D.C. Circuit had the authority to deny SRI’s Petition outright. Instead, on July 29, the D.C. Circuit Court issued an Order requiring the DEA to file a response to SRI’s Petition. The DEA must respond to the Petition by August 29. The D.C. Circuit’s Order highlights that the Court likely thinks the DEA’s position, limiting cannabis research to a single university, is at least arguably arbitrary and capricious.
If the D.C. Circuit does in fact require the DEA to broaden the sourcing of cannabis for research purposes in the United States, the effects of such a ruling would be vast. At this time, because cannabis for all intents and purposes cannot be legally grown in the United States (at least on the federal level), much of the hype around the health benefits and liabilities of cannabis is either anecdotal or comes from abroad. Administrative agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration often cite the lack of peer-reviewed studies as a reason to prevent cannabis – and related products which are currently legal to produce federally, such as hemp-derived CBD – from being more widely used and ingested. Allowing more comprehensive sourcing of the cannabis plant to move forward would likely do much to remove this administrative hurdle.