The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced Monday that it will expand scientific and medical research of marijuana, a development that could ultimately boost industry prospects.
But it’s unclear how soon additional research projects will be approved.
The DEA said in a “notice to applications” filed with the Office of the Federal Register that it intends to propose new regulations to govern its marijuana research program before making decisions on 33 pending applications.
The DEA announcement comes just weeks after an appellate court ordered the DEA to respond to claims that it has unlawfully failed to act on medical cannabis research applications since 2016.
Despite congressional pressure for the DEA to act, only the University of Mississippi has been granted federal authorization to grow research cannabis.
Such research is critical to assessing the potential health and scientific benefits of cannabis, which, in turn, could bolster the medical case for using cannabis and for legalization in general.
The DEA said in a news release that it anticipates that registering additional qualified marijuana growers will increase the varieties available for research.
The agency said the new rules will help ensure that the agency is evaluating the applications under the applicable legal standards.
The process also will provide applicants and the general public with an opportunity to comment on the regulations, according to the DEA.
“I am pleased that the DEA is moving forward with its review of applications for those who seek to grow marijuana legally to support research,” U.S. Attorney General William Barr said in a statement.
“The Department of Justice will continue to work with our colleagues at the Department of Health and Human Services and across the administration to improve research opportunities wherever we can.”
The DEA also announced that growers and processors of hemp and CBD at or below 0.3% THC are no longer required to register with the agency.
Hemp was legalized nationwide as part of the 2018 Farm Bill.