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Members of Congress Urge DEA to Speed Up Approval Process for Medical Cannabis Research Applications

© Josh Fogel / StockPot Images

Thirty members of the House of Representatives sent a letter to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) urging the federal agency to do more to “speed up and improve the research application process” for studies conducted on the medicinal benefits of cannabis.

In the letter, the congresswomen and men point out that 33 states have approved medical cannabis in some form and have implemented legal programs. They also note that the Food and Drug Administration has set a precedent for admitting the medical benefits of cannabis and its potential by approving the drug Epidiolex, a medication containing CBD that is used to treat seizures. The legislators say that due to the ongoing classification of cannabis as a Schedule I substance, gaining federal approval for more cannabis research will continue to be “an arduous and long” process.

“One who wishes to engage in this research must at the very least work with three separate federal entities – the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), DEA, and FDA. Approval is required by FDA, which includes a site inspection, and FDA,” the letter says.

The letter goes on to urge the DEA and other federal agencies to speed up the research application process, in an attempt to convey the importance and gravity of the matter.

“We urge you then to go beyond these steps and do whatever you can to speed up and improve the research application process. Please let us know what you are considering to change the application process so it moves more quickly and what additional resources from Congress would help in that regard,” the congress members wrote.

Additionally, the letter contained four unanswered questions previously directed at the Justice Department. Those four questions include inquiries about the status of 26 cannabis manufacturer applications, the steps the Department of Justice and DEA have taken to review the applications, and when the agencies expect completion of the reviews.  

These applications were reportedly blocked from any further action by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Making an appearance before Congress in April, however, current Attorney General William Barr said those applications would get the chance for review.

It is certainly a positive thing for advocates of medicinal cannabis to see these congresswomen and men putting some pressure on federal agencies who have been dragging their feet on the issue for far too long. Only time will tell how effective these members of congress will be when it comes to furthering the advancement of getting research applications approved, or at the very least reviewed.


  1. Congress can urge the DEA to speed up cannabis research all they want, but it is Congress that must act first by reconstructing their malformed federal definition of marijuana so that it carefully deschedules cannabis.

    The original definition of “marihuana” was malformed when the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 was enacted. It was malformed because it only provided an easily misconstrued outline, rather than clearly identifying what marijuana actually is. That violated the Necessary and Proper Clause, because it was not necessary to improperly define marijuana. The subsequent definitions have maintained that same malformed structure, even as additional constraints were introduced.

    The DEA could re-interpret the definition if they wanted to, but the courts have already approved the DEA’s interpretation that marijuana means cannabis and anything made from cannabis that has THC, so “nyah, nyah” why should they?

    The Attorney General could tell the DEA to reinterpret the definition, but that would only happen if the President told him to do that. That is not likely because the President just told him to get busy investigating the investigators of the investigation about Russian meddling in the last election. The ball is in Congress’s court, even though they wag their fingers at the DEA to do something.

    It is the obligation of We the People to tell our members of Congress how they should reform the definition. Congress can lawfully reform the definition to clearly define the meaning of Schedule 1 marijuana so that it upholds our Constitution, if we tell them to reinterpret and reconstruct the definition this way:

    The term “marijuana” means all parts of the smoke produced by the combustion of the plant Cannabis sativa L. which is, as are the viable seeds of such plant, prohibited to be grown by or sold by any publicly traded corporation or subsidiary company, and such smoke is prohibited to be inhaled by any child or by any person bearing any firearm, as is the intake of any part or any product of such plant containing more than 0.3% THC by weight unless prescribed to such child by an authorized medical practitioner.

    The practical effects of this reformed definition are that cannabis will be carefully descheduled because the misconstruction that “marihuana = cannabis” will be overridden by Congress, and the prohibitions that control marijuana use will be properly codified. Cannabis can then be researched, and marijuana itself can then be removed from Schedule 1 with the proper controls already in place.

    BTW, the latest definition of marijuana is an appropriate example of what a malformed definition looks like. At this point, the definition still provides an outline that includes the conditions that “marihuana” is in Schedule 1, it is some “other substance” derived from cannabis that is “characterized” as a drug without mentioning THC, it is misconstrued to be cannabis, but it is not “hemp”.

    Hemp and its THC are descheduled, according to the 2018 Farm Bill. If the THC in hemp can be descheduled, and the THC in other products is in Schedule 3, then THC itself must not be so bad after all. What is important is that the THC content of cannabis products is identified at the point-of-sale, just like the alcohol content of “intoxicating liquors”.

    The definition of marijuana still does not clearly say what it actually is, and the unnecessary definition of hemp provides a decent contrast. Both definitions were created by the 2018 Farm Bill:

    MARIHUANA: (16)(A) Subject to subparagraph (B), the term “marihuana” means all parts of the plant Cannabis sativa L., whether growing or not; the seeds thereof; the resin extracted from any part of such plant; and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of such plant, its seeds or resin.
    (B) The term “marihuana” does not include (i) hemp, as defined in section 297A of the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946; or (ii) the mature stalks of such plant, fiber produced from such stalks, oil or cake made from the seeds of such plant, any other compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of such mature stalks (except the resin extracted therefrom), fiber, oil, or cake, or the sterilized seed of such plant which is incapable of germination.

    Sec. 297A: (1) HEMP. The term “hemp” means the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of that plant, including the seeds thereof and all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts, and salts of isomers, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.

    Congress has been blowing smoke about marijuana without admitting it. We should tell our members of Congress to reform the definition of marijuana.