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DEA Proposes New Rule To Expand Marijuana Production For Scientific Research

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration or DEA has released a new rule proposal that would enable more businesses or entities to obtain licenses to grow marijuana for scientific and medical research purposes. Currently, the University of Mississippi is the only entity licensed to produce marijuana for research in the U.S.

The DEA is a federal law enforcement agency under the Department of Justice or DoJ. The agency noted that the proposed rule will result in additional registered growers and a larger, more diverse variety of marijuana available for research.

The proposed rule was published in the Federal Register on Monday, March 23 and will have a 60-day public comment period.

The new regulations will enable DEA to evaluate each of the 37 pending applications to grow marijuana for research under the applicable legal standard and conform the overall program to relevant laws.

While the DEA started accepting applications from potential marijuana growers more than three years ago, the agency was criticized last year for not acknowledging or acting on the applications it has received since then.

"The Drug Enforcement Administration continues to support additional research into marijuana and its components, and we believe registering more growers will advance the scientific and medical research already being conducted. DEA is making progress to register additional marijuana growers for federally authorized research, and will continue to work with other relevant federal agencies to expedite the necessary next steps," said DEA Acting Administrator Uttam Dhillon.

Under the new rule proposal, the DEA would take ownership and physical possession of all research-grade cannabis. The University of Mississippi was not required to forfeit ownership of the cannabis plants grown by it to the DEA.

The DEA noted that the number of active researchers registered with it to conduct research with marijuana, marijuana extracts, and marijuana derivatives grew by 58 percent to 595 in March 2020 from 377 in January 2017.

To accommodate this growth in research, the DEA has increased the annual production quota for marijuana by 575 percent to 3,200 kilograms in 2020 from 472 kilograms in 2017.

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