DEA announces growth of medical cannabis research in United States


The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has announced that it is moving forward to facilitate and expand scientific and medical cannabis research in the United States.

The DEA is providing notice of pending applications from entities applying to be registered to manufacture cannabis for researchers and anticipates that registering additional qualified cannabis growers will increase the variety of strains available for medical cannabis research.

More registered cultivators for medical cannabis researcher

Over the last two years, the total number of individuals registered by DEA to conduct medical cannabis research including research of cannabis extracts, derivatives and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) has increased by more than 40% from 384 in January 2017 to 542 in January 2019. Similarly, in the last two years, DEA has more than doubled the production quota for cannabis each year based on increased usage projections for federally approved research projects.

Attorney General William P. Barr said: “I am pleased that DEA is moving forward with its review of applications for those who seek to grow cannabis legally to support research. 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”.

DEA Acting Administrator Uttam Dhillon said: “DEA is making progress in the program to register additional cannabis growers for federally authorised research and will work with other relevant federal agencies to expedite the necessary next steps.

“We support additional research into cannabis and its components, and we believe registering more growers will result in researchers having access to a wider variety for study.”

Registration not required for hemp plants

This notice also announces that, as the result of a recent amendment to federal law, certain forms of cannabis no longer require DEA registration to grow or manufacture.

The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, which was signed into law on 20 December 2018, changed the definition of cannabis to exclude hemp plant material that contains 0.3 percent or less delta-9 THC on a dry weight basis. Accordingly, hemp, including hemp plants and cannabidiol (CBD) preparations at or below the 0.3 percent delta-9 THC threshold, is not a controlled substance, and a DEA registration is not required to grow or research it.

New regulations for growers

Before making decisions on any pending applications, DEA intends to propose new regulations that will govern the cannabis growers’ programme for scientific and medical research. The new rules will help ensure DEA can evaluate the applications under the applicable legal standard and conform the program to relevant laws. To ensure transparency and public participation, this process will provide applicants and the general public with an opportunity to comment on the regulations that should govern the program of growing cannabis for scientific and medical cannabis research.

The Notice of Application is available at


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