The American Psychological Association (APA) is urging United States Attorney General William Barr to review more than two-dozen pending applications for federal marijuana grow licenses, reports NORML.
In a letter dated Wednesday, February 27, the APA urged the Justice Department to “act immediately” on 26 applications pending before federal officials; the applications were initially submitted to the agency over two years ago. The APA is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States, representing over 118,000 people.
Currently, the sole federally licensed producer of cannabis for clinical research is the University of Mississippi. The University has held the exclusive license for more than four decades.
In August 2016, the US Drug Enforcement Administration announced in the US Federal Register that the agency was “adopting a new policy that is designed to increase the number of entities registered under the Controlled Substances Act to grow (manufacture) marijuana to supply legitimate researchers in the United States.” The agency said that the policy change was necessary because the existing system provides “no clear legal pathway for commercial enterprises to produce marijuana for product development.”
Last year, however, former DEA director Robert Patterson testified to Congress that the agency believedthat approving additional applicants would likely violate international anti-drug treaties. Patterson said that DEA could not move forward granting any new applications until the Justice Department clarified the issue.
In its letter to the newly appointed Attorney General, APA CEO Arthur C. Evans urged the Department “to take immediate action on the existing pool of cannabis grower applications so that the United States scientific community can continue to expand the study of both the harmful and potential therapeutic effects of cannabis and its derivatives. … Without access to an expanded range of cannabis products engineered under FDA-approved Good Manufacturing Practices, scientific research cannot hope to keep pace with the ever expanding recreational and medicinal cannabis marketplace.” The APA represents nearly 120,000 researchers and clinicians.
The longstanding federal prohibition on privately licensed cannabis producers exists despite a 2007 ruling by the DEA’s own administrative law judge striking down the ban because it was not “in the public interest.” Although that ruling ordered DEA to lift the ban, the agency failed to do so.
Below is the full letter the APA sent to AG Barr:
The American Psychological Association has asked the U.S. attorney general to act immediately to evaluate the more than two dozen cannabis grower applications that have been languishing for more than two years at the Department of Justice, noting that the scientific community is eager to advance the research on both the harmful and therapeutic effects of marijuana and its derivatives.
“Psychologists are interested in studying a wide range of scientific questions that require a broader supply of cannabis products, including how the route of administration and potency influences abuse-liability, risk for cannabis use disorder, cognitive impairments, risk for psychosis and motor vehicle impairment, as well as the potential therapeutic indications for cannabis derivatives,” APA said in a letter (PDF, 70KB) to Attorney General William P. Barr. “Without access to an expanded range of cannabis products engineered under FDA-approved Good Manufacturing Practices, scientific research cannot hope to keep pace with the ever expanding recreational and medicinal cannabis marketplace.”
Cannabis and its constituent compounds are of significant interest to psychological scientists, both to those interested in use, abuse and dependence, as well as to those interested in the therapeutic potential of cannabis derivatives to treat a variety of health conditions. Many prominent psychologists participated in a 2016 summit convened by the National Institutes of Health, which focused on the neurological and psychiatric effects of cannabis, other cannabinoids and the endocannabinoid system. The goal of the summit was to ensure evidence-based information is available to inform practice and policy, particularly important given the rapidly shifting landscape regarding the recreational and medicinal use of marijuana.
APA noted that the Drug Enforcement Administration created a formal application procedure for cannabis growers in August 2016, to meet the increased demand for research-grade cannabis. Since then, the DEA has received 26 such applications but has not acted on them, despite bipartisan letters from House and Senate members to the previous attorney general.
“We urge you to take immediate action on the existing pool of cannabis grower applications so that the United States scientific community can continue to expand the study of both the harmful and potential therapeutic effects of cannabis and its derivatives,” said the letter, signed by APA CEO Arthur C. Evans Jr., PhD.
The association cited several reports, from the National Academy of Sciences and the National Institute on Drug Abuse, noting the need to remove barriers to advancing cannabis research.
“The need for an expansion of cannabinoid research on many fronts is clear, but research with botanical cannabis and its derivatives is costly, cumbersome and limited by a sole source supply from NIDA’s Drug Supply Program,” Evans wrote. “While NIDA provides a staple catalog of cannabis products and derivatives for research, it cannot keep pace (nor should it be expected to) with the range of products available to consumers in the 10 states that have approved recreational cannabis use or the 34 states distributing cannabis products through medical dispensaries.”