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Is Jeff Sessions’ Justice Department Actively Blocking Cannabis Research?

August 15, 2017
Attorney General Jeff Sessions listens as President Donald Trump speaks during a cabinet meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Monday, July 31, 2017, in Washington. (Evan Vucci/AP)
More than two dozen federal applications to grow cannabis for research purposes have stalled as Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ Justice Department lets them languish. The bottleneck is frustrating researchers, doctors, and other stakeholders desperate to learn more about the drug.

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A year ago, the US Drug Enforcement Agency began accepting applications to grow cannabis for research, a move meant to improve the availability and quality of cannabis for use in scientific research. As part of the approval process, the DEA says it needs the DOJ’s sign-off—but so far that hasn’t come.

“They’re sitting on it,” one law enforcement official told the Washington Post, which first reported the story. “They just will not act on these things.”

A senior DEA official told the Post that “the Justice Department has effectively shut down this program to increase research registrations.’’

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As a result of what’s effectively become a DOJ roadblock, researchers are struggling to access cannabis to conduct experiments into the drug’s health effects and clinical applications. To date, there is only one place in the US that has permission from the federal government to grow and distribute cannabis: the University of Mississippi. Not exactly a cannabis hotbed, historically speaking.

The cannabis that is grown at Ole Miss is nothing to write home about. In some cases, it barely even looks like cannabis. As Leafly reported in March, cannabis provided by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) for a study into PTSD looked less like medical marijuana and more like clippings you might dig out of an old lawnmower.

In the PTSD study, Johns Hopkins University was slated to help conduct the multiyear clinical trial, sponsored by the nonprofit group Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, or MAPS. But soon after the researchers received the government-grown cannabis, John Hopkins pulled out of the study. In a statement to Leafly, a university spokesperson said the school withdrew “because our goals for this weren’t in alignment.”

Related

Dustup Over NIDA-Grown Ditch Weed Leads Johns Hopkins to Ditch PTSD Study

MAPS spokesman Brad Burge, however, told Leafly that the poor-quality cannabis was the primary reason the study hit a road block. “NIDA wasn’t able to provide the relatively high THC level that we wanted to look at,” Burge said. “We asked for a 12% THC strain, and they were only able to get us a 10%.” For reference, the bulk of cannabis sold at adult-use stores in legal states exceeds 20% THC.

Acting DEA Administrator Chuck Rosenberg said last year that the DEA would “support and promote legitimate research regarding marijuana and its constituent parts.” At the time, the statement was a victory for cannabis researchers. But so far little has come of it.

Gage Peake's Bio Image

Gage Peake

Gage Peake is a former staff writer for Leafly, where he specialized in data journalism, sports, and breaking news coverage. He's a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's College of Journalism and Mass Communications.

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  • familyguy

    Trump should have fired him when he had the chance. Want better pole numbers DT? Get this guy in line with the American majority.

  • Tonya Masters

    Sessions needs to resign before he gets slapped up side his head with a hemp stalk from a 90 year old with disfiguring arthritis

    • cactusjim420

      I’m guessing you are not the 90 year old, just saying……

  • Tonya Masters

    Shouldn’t Sessions be doing something diffrent with his valuable time like looking for Jimmy Holfa?

    • Rob Stevens

      how about Jill Stein, Gary Johnson and Ralf Nadir… the assholes libs who gave US Bush and Trump

  • SuckTrumpet

    I will not vote Republican, until the party respects states rights on marijuana legalization. I will no longer read anti marijuana articles published by any media outlet. I will no longer purchase goods from companies who associate with groups who are anti marijuana. And I will never move back to a state that arrests or imprisons harmless Marijuana consumers. EVER!

    • Rob Stevens

      the democrats have been infiltrated by the Israel hating ultra left. The DNC of today is not the party of Gore and Lieberman that would have saved US from 9/11 and the great recession.

  • Lori T

    Sessions needs to recuse himself from having anything to do with marijuana or sell his holdings in the Pharmaceutical companies! He’s doing the exact same thing that the big families did back in the 1930’s and 40’s making cannabis illegal just to protect their own interests! We can only hope that our country doesn’t allow that to happen again

    • Jackson Shredder

      oh it won’t happen again ! Not without blood !!

  • Auryan

    Money and Pharmaceuticals …oh and did I say Pharmaceuticals?

  • lovingc

    Trump and Sessionss are both idiots, probably closet Nazis. But yes Jeffy boy would rather people were silent and dumb. This is America Jeff get off dead center and do your damn job.The research on cannabis is critical for sick people. Let it happen.
    The crap grown in Mississippi is not fit for human consumption nor is it anything like the modern crop.That picture of what they sent to Colorado could not be used for research because of the contaminants. This was for PTSD research. By refusing to sign off on the others wanting to grow research grade materials you are complicit in the deaths of thousands of veterans from suicide.

    • Rob Stevens

      Nazis who like Jews and Israel? It’s the radical Dems who worry the Jews most.

      • Rob Stevens

        oh and by the way, my whole family was murdered by the Germans, who just happened to be nazis back then. Maybe the Germans are the closet Nazis importing a million man muzlab army… Are we phucked or what??

  • Michael Miller

    The opioid crisis in this country could improve with the utilization of cannabis, but big brother is not cooperating. The same can be said for PTSD, many seizure disorders, cancer, and a host of other health issues of which are costing us billions in healthcare. More importantly, people are suffering when they could be getting help with a medicine that has proven to be safe and effective. What is it gonna take before we the people have had enough?

    • Robert Simms

      Thanks, Michael, my immediate thought was that he has stock in Big Pharma and is a greedy thing. Lori T, in her response is that he does have stock in BP but I don’t know that as fact….if he does, he should recuse himself. I have been on opioids for years due to spinal/nerve damage and would love to obtain medical marijuana legally. Not for a buzz, just for relief.

    • Jackson Shredder

      Big Brother is not cooperating because it is making too much dirty money on keeping these drugs illegal. It’s finally at the forefront and the true strength of this corrupt cesspool is in the process of crumbling. I’m enjoying everyday as I smile on it’s demise !! The media is becoming the new funnies pages for me as I remember in the early 1970’s. This well hidden plan to keep marijuana on the schedule 1 dea list is coming to an end and sooner than any of us think. I mean hey they have 2 choices. Give it back to the people, or have it taken back by the people. The choice of how it’s returned is up the the government. I will enjoy only one way !! Best of luck !!!

  • Rob Stevens

    Sessions was head of the “young republicans” during his college years circa 1966, when he inspired the “media” in Alabama to start burning Beatles albums. I have no doubt Sessions was a leading figure in the persecution of John Lennon. Trump picking was a total shock yet the Democrats truly phucked everything up!

  • Izzat So

    There is something seriously wrong with a system that allows ONE MAN to reject and ignore the wishes of over 60% of the country’s citizens. Then there are the 435 deadheads in Congress who COULD make a change but don’t have the courage to respect the same 60% of their constituents because the anti-marijuana forces are stuffing their campaign accounts with bribery money keep pot illegal. Unfortunately the only way to fight money is with money. We need a few pot-smoking billionaires to change the game. Look at the face above… that is pure corruption smirking at you and giving you the finger.

    • Robert Simms

      Power and greed, why does it keep us down? Thank you Izzat!

  • SuckTrumpet

    We need to actively lobby against special interest groups based in government from lobbying. If you understand that groups like the DA Associations, Sherrifs Associations, Fraternal Order of Police, Prison Lobby and ALEC are in violation of the law by weighing in financially in political topics. And that public tax dollars are being used also in violation of the law. The solution is clear. The only people that should allowed to lobby our politicians is “We the People!” The first step is to make our politicians follow the law.

  • Jeff Hudson

    The present DOJ operates in a shameful manner and the head of it Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III is a pathetic example of a self righteous human being.

    • Gary Craig

      Not just Sessions. Look who heads the HHS, Tom Price. He’s big time anti cannabis, recreational and medical. Oh, and he’s anti opioid therepy. Then there’s the head of the FDA, a very good friend to Big Pharma. The whole cabinet is full of rabid anti cannabis, Prohibitionists drug warriors.

      • Edgar

        I am Sooo glad I live in Canada. Weed is legal here. A guy bot busted about ten years ago and saw the judge in the morning, he asked if he had anything to say? He was charged with cultivating and growing Cannabis. He told the judge he had Epilepsy and his Doctor recommended Cannabis, it was the only thing that would control his illness. The judge called the mans Doctor, the Doctor told him the same story. The judge insisted that he be given back all of his clones and plants and Cannabis and the judge gave the Federal Government twelve months to come up with a plan to legalize Cannabis or it would become legal. He said the Government has no right to deny a person their medicine. Trudeau has promised legislation that will legalize Cannabis. I live just outside of Toronto and there are several delivery services and several clubs you can go to for smoking. They charge $120. For a half ounce of Og Kush delivered to your door. They have been operating for over ten years and they never get busted. Why would your Supreme Court deny a man his medicine? I do not know, but if it is the only thing some people can turn to for relief then it should be legal!

  • Anthony Cain

    too much money involved between big pharma and jeffy’s private prisons… fill his pockets up give them max sentences … if one of ya family got cancer n cannabis was only cure ….would you tell them to die while watching reefer madness on tv ya POS

  • Unni Sivasankaran

    IS THERE ANY INDIAN FRIENDS WHO ARE INTERESTED IN JOINING A CAMPAIGN TO
    “LEGALISE CANNABIS IN INDIA”.

  • lovingc

    He wont sign off on research because it hasn’t been proved safe. Circular logic.

    • Edgar

      It might not be safe to his standards but in 3000 years not one person has died from using Cannabis.

  • krate
  • Silverado

    What do we expect from an old aged drug warrior who’s best days are behind him?? Occasional flashes of brilliance? From the dimmest bulb in the pack?? Instead and from the highest law enforcement office in the land, we have to deal with unfocusing…monkey minds and child like obstenence…

  • swamp boy

    what a hateful little man . He is the type of prosecutor that will sentence you in his friends jail for 10 years for a joint .What a piece of shit !