Attorney General William Barr recently received two letters from senators that stress the importance of expanding the number of federally authorized growers of marijuana for research purposes.
Adding such facilities would not represent a violation of international treaties, one of the letters argued, while the other focuses more broadly on delays in processing applications for additional cultivators.
A letter signed by Sens. Brian Schatz (D-HI), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Christopher Coons (D-DE) and Tim Kaine (D-VA), describes how the U.S. currently has just one facility that’s authorized to produce cannabis for federal research purposes and how the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) created a process to license additional manufacturers in 2016.
“Our nation’s need for meaningful federally sanctioned research is critical,” the senators wrote in the letter, which was delivered on Tuesday. “Research and medical communities should have access to research-grade materials to answer questions around marijuana’s efficacy and potential impacts, both positive and adverse. Finalizing the review of applications for marijuana manufacturing will assist in doing just that.”
The Department of Justice under Barr’s predecessor, Jeff Sessions, blocked the DEA from acting on more than two dozen cultivation applications it has received.
To avoid further delays, the senators asked Barr’s office to answer these six questions by April 23:
1. What is the current status of each marijuana manufacturer application?
2. What steps have both DEA and DOJ taken to review each marijuana manufacturer application currently pending?
3. By what date do you estimate the DEA will have completed its review of all the marijuana manufacturer applications and commence registration of new marijuana manufacturers?
4. Please share DOJ’s analysis of the Single Convention and if the opinion of the Justice Department is the same or similar to that of DEA’s.
5. If there are legal barriers to licensing multiple schedule I marijuana manufacturers under the Single Convention, please identify and explain them.
6. What impact, if any, did the enactment of the 2018 Farm Bill have on the pending applications? If any of the pending applications were to manufacture hemp-derived CBD for research purposes, does DOJ intend to notify those applicants that a bulk manufacturer registration is no longer needed? If so, when? If not, why not?
Beyond including questions about restrictions under an international treaty (“the Single Convention”) in that letter, Schatz and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), a presidential candidate, sent a separate letter to the attorney general last week that specifically zeroes in on the issue.
After repeatedly insisting that the Single Convention blocks the government from increasing the number of marijuana manufacturers, the DEA ultimately determined that it would be permissible under the treaties to open up applications for additional providers, the senators wrote.
The State Department reached the same conclusion in 2016, finding that “[n]othing in the text of the Single Convention, nor in the Commentary, suggests that there is a limitation on the number of licenses that can be issued.”
The senators voiced their opposition to “any attempt to reinterpret” the country’s obligations under the treaties. They said that “any changes will unnecessarily hinder the advancement of research on the effects of marijuana for medicinal or therapeutic purposes.”
“We believe the licensed production of marijuana for research is critically important,” the senators wrote. “After over two and a half years of delay, it is imperative that you advance the process for registering new manufacturers of research-grade marijuana.”
Barr said in January that he supports expanding the number of research-grade cannabis manufacturers in the U.S. and committed to reviewing existing applications. But he hasn’t offered his interpretation of how international treaties might affect those efforts.
“In addition to being a crucial component for growing great marijuana, sunshine in politics can serve as the best disinfectant,” Justin Strekal, political director of NORML, told Marijuana Moment.
“Senator Schatz is leading the way in holding the new attorney general’s feet to the fire as we prepare for a substantial shift in public policy,” he added, referring to the fact that the senator led both sign-on letters.
In other news about federal impediments to expanded cannabis science, the head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse said on Tuesday that the Schedule I status of marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act made it difficult to research—in part because of the limited supply of substances that are available to study.
Read the senators’ marijuana letters to Barr below:
Senators Press DOJ On Marij… by on Scribd