A federal appellate court ordered the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to respond within a month to a lawsuit claiming that it has unlawfully failed to act on medical cannabis research applications since 2016.

Such research is critical to assessing public health benefits, which, in turn, could create additional industry opportunities.

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The order by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia gives the DEA 30 days to file a response “not to exceed 7,800 words.”

In June, the Scottsdale Research Institute in Arizona filed a court complaint to compel the DEA to process the applications, calling the delay “unlawful and unreasonable” and causing harm to public health.

Despite congressional pressure for the DEA to act, only the University of Mississippi has been granted federal authorization to grow research cannabis.

In its complaint, the Phoenix-based Scottsdale Research Institute characterized the cannabis grown at the University of Mississippi as “subpar.”

U.S. Attorney General William Barr said at a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing in April that he would look into the status of the applications, but the DEA still hasn’t taken action.

Frustrated lawmakers recently introduced legislation to accelerate medical cannabis research.