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A federal court is ordering the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to respond to a lawsuit concerning the status of applications for research-grade marijuana manufacturers.

Researchers filed a suit against the agency in June 2018, arguing that the quality of cannabis supplied from the nation's only federally authorized cultivation facility in Mississippi is inadequate and that additional manufacturers are necessary to increase the diversity of marijuana for research purposes.

The DEA said in 2016 that it was accepting applications for such facilities but has so far declined to act on the dozens it has received. The Arizona-based Scottsdale Research Institute (SRI), which submitted an application to grow its own cannabis in order to conduct clinical trials on marijuana's potential to treat symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, is seeking a resolution through the courts.

On July 29, 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit handed SRI an initial procedural victory, issuing an order that DEA “file a response to the amended mandamus petition, not to exceed 7,800 words, within 30 days of the date of this order.” A mandamus petition requires the DEA to explain why the SRI's petition was not handled.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit on July 29, 2019, ordered the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to explain its rationale for not reviewing applications for additional federally authorized cannabis cultivation facilities. (Courtesy of the Scottsdale Research Institute)

“Despite publicly soliciting applications back in August of 2016, DEA has acted none of them,” the SRI wrote in a press release. “It has never offered any coherent explanation for this delay, other than to say it is still working through the process and these applications are still under review.

“Hopefully, DEA will finally explain, in a court-filing available for public inspection, the answer to this question that has frustrated everyone.”

The SRI isn't alone in its frustration over the quality of marijuana produced at the University of Mississippi, the site of the only approved cannabis manufacturer in the U.S. Studies have found that the marijuana produced at the facility is so low in THC that it's chemically closer to hemp than products available in state-level commercial markets, raising questions about existing federal research into the plant.

The DEA delaying the application process is “unlawful, unreasonable, and egregious,” the SRI said in its amended petition.

“It contravenes the letter and spirit of the [Controlled Substances Act], seriously harms SRI, and hampers SRI's efforts to help suffering veterans through clinical research,” the petition stated. “Everyone — including the agency — agree that research is important and that the need for research generally is urgent. Here, DEA can act with little expenditure of resources.”

Attorney General William Barr has repeatedly said that he supports increasing the number of research-grade cannabis producers and pledged to look into the status of submitted applications, but no moves have been made since he took over for his anti-marijuana predecessor, Jeff Sessions, in February 2019.

The DEA is also facing pressure to answer questions about marijuana's scheduling status as part of a separate lawsuit filed by a coalition of patients and advocates in May. In that suit, a federal court said the agency must “promptly” consider rescheduling and gave plaintiffs a procedural victory by stating that it would keep the case open until the DEA took action.

Feature image: The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) solicited applications for cultivation facilities to produce marijuana for research, but never reviewed them. Now a federal court has ordered the DEA to state why the applications were never processed. (Photo by Gina Coleman/Weedmaps News)

This article was republished from Marijuana Moment under a content syndication agreement. Read the original article here.