DEA moving to increase marijuana research

The Policy Matters team
| Sep 11, 2019

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) recently announced it is moving forward with efforts to increase scientific and medical research of marijuana. The DEA stated it intends to propose new regulations to govern the marijuana growers program. Additionally, the agency provided notice of pending applications from entities applying to be registered to manufacture marijuana for research purposes. With the uptick of state action on medical marijuana, including at the workers’ compensation level, eventual results of this research may become a factor as states’ interest in medical marijuana continues.

The DEA provided notice, in late August, of certain applications it received from entities applying to be registered to manufacture, in bulk, a basic class of Schedule I controlled substances. But before making decisions on those applications, the DEA intends to promulgate regulations that govern the program of growing marijuana for scientific and medical research under DEA registration.

In addition, the DEA’s notice also stated that those applicants may withdraw their pending applications if they no longer need to obtain a registration because of recent amendments made by the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 to the definition of “marihuana.” The definition no longer includes “hemp” as defined in the law. That change in law provides that certain forms of cannabis no longer require DEA registration to grow or manufacture.

More types of marijuana available for research
The DEA anticipates that registering additional qualified growers will increase the variety of marijuana available for research purposes. The total number of individuals registered to conduct this research has increased by more than 40 percent from January 2017 to January 2019. Over the last two years, the DEA has also more than doubled their production quota for marijuana each year.

RequestPublic policy favoring medical marijuana expansion
As we have previously noted, public policy and opinion on medical marijuana utilization have taken a significant turn in favor of expansion. Thirty-three states permit utilization of medical marijuana, in some form, for treating certain ailments. And some states, either through legislative and/or judicial activity, have already approved using medical marijuana specifically for treatment in workers’ compensation, while some others have at least attempted legislation providing that medical marijuana would be deemed compensable.

However, despite the increasing state action, and this recent notice concerning marijuana growth and research sanctioned at the federal level, marijuana is still classified as a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law. Results of expanded research into marijuana and its potential medicinal efficacy may either bolster or hinder this policy trend.

As these policies evolve, the Optum Workers’ Comp and Auto No-fault Government Affairs and Clinical teams will continue to update our clients.

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