A group of bipartisan senators are calling on Attorney General Jeff Session to rein in Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) from placing obstacles and slowing medical marijuana research.
In a letter sent Thursday, Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah.) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) said they are concerned by reports that the Justice Department is effectively blocking the DEA from taking action on more than two dozen requests to grow marijuana for use in research.
“Research on marijuana is necessary for evidence-based decision making, and expanded research has been called for by President Trump’s Surgeon General, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, the FDA, the CDC, the National Highway Safety Administration, the National Institute of Health, the National Cancer Institute, the National Academies of Sciences, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse,” the senators wrote.
While the DEA maintains marijuana’s classification as a Schedule 1 controlled substance, it has been open to medical research and changed its policy nearly two years ago, allowing for more suppliers because of the increased interest in medical cannabis research.
To date, only one manufacturer - the University of Mississippi - is licensed to produce marijuana for federally sanctioned research.
According to Senators Hatch and Harris, at least 25 manufacturers have formally applied to produce federally approved research-grade cannabis. But the DEA has yet to approve those requests. Hatch and Harris said they are concerned the Justice Department has been sitting on the applications, per The Hill.
“Research on marijuana is necessary to resolve critical questions of public health and safety, such as learning the impacts of marijuana on developing brains and formulating methods to test marijuana impairment in drivers,” the senators wrote.
The senators asked Sessions for a commitment that the DEA would resolve all the outstanding applications by Aug. 11 at the latest — exactly two years since the agency announced its policy change.