Federal Court Dismisses Lawsuit Against DEA Over Medical Cannabis Research
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Federal Court Dismisses Lawsuit Against DEA Over Medical Cannabis Research

The DEA announced in August that it would expedite the review of cultivation license applications that have been pending for three years, making the lawsuit “moot,” according to the judge.

October 30, 2019

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has dismissed a lawsuit against the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) that alleged that the agency was hindering medical cannabis research by ignoring cannabis cultivation applications, according to a Westword report.

The appeals court ruled that the DEA has advanced the application process with its announcement in August that it will take steps to approve additional federal cultivation licenses from a pool of applications that have been pending since 2016, which makes the case “moot,” Westword reported.

Dr. Sue Sisley and the Scottsdale Research Institute (SRI), a Phoenix-based clinical trial company, filed the lawsuit against the Justice Department and the DEA in June. The company argued that the quality of cannabis supplied by the University of Mississippi—the only organization licensed to grow cannabis for medical research in the U.S.—was an ongoing issue during its PTSD study. SRI applied for a DEA manufacturing license in 2016, after the agency announced that it would start accepting new cultivation license applications, but its application has been pending ever since. The lawsuit asked the judge to force the DEA to respond to applicants seeking licenses.

Earlier this year, the appeals court ordered the DEA to explain why it had not responded to the dozens of potential growers who submitted applications in 2016. The DEA then announced on Aug. 26 that it will take steps to approve additional licenses from the pool of pending applicants.

“DEA is making progress in the program to register additional marijuana growers for federally authorized research, and will work with other relevant federal agencies to expedite the necessary next steps,” said DEA Acting Administrator Uttam Dhillon in a public statement at that time. “We support additional research into marijuana and its components, and we believe registering more growers will result in researchers having access to a wider variety for study.”

Shortly after the DEA’s announcement, MMJ BioPharma Cultivation and MedPharm both indicated that they received word from the DEA regarding their applications and have been selected to move forward in the licensing process.

“It’s important now that we think about the future and producing consistent, high-quality dosage forms related to cannabis, and that’s exactly what MedPharm’s ready to do,” Albert Gutierrez, CEO of MedPharm, a Colorado-based cannabis research and formulation development company, told Cannabis Business Times at that time. “And we’re happy to work alongside the DEA and Department of Justice to bring this to fruition and make this finally not just a monopoly from the University of Mississippi, but also bring high-quality cannabis and dosage forms to the patients."