Scientist are suing the DEA in hopes of cultivating cannabis

Published Dec 16, 2020 02:00 p.m. ET
iStock / William_Potter

The DEA is in charge of granting applications to enable the production of marijuana for research purposes. According to scientists, the application approval DEA clock has stopped, and as a result, the experts have taken the necessary steps to urge the federal court to grant approval for the submitted applications for cannabis research projects.

Backed by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelics Studies (MAPS), a long-time scientist involved in cannabis research, filed a lawsuit with the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts. The filing called on the DEA to approve the application, which would allow him to be in control as a federally registered cannabis cultivator. The filing would, at the very least, address the issue, and action would be taken if an appeal was necessary due to the file.


Why is the DEA dragging their feet on this issue? Currently, there are 30 proposals waiting for the DEA to give an approval stamp, allowing marijuana to be grown for research purposes. Lyle Craker from the University of Massachusetts Amherst has been waiting four years for some sort of response.

The one and only

There is only one approved cannabis cultivator, and that is the University of Mississippi, which has held a monopoly on growing marijuana for scientific purposes for over 50 years as a federally authorized cultivator. Amazingly this is despite the DEA announcing in 2016 that it would work on the process of adding and approving additional marijuana cultivators.

Growing marijuana at the only federally approved facility has raised concerns from lawmakers and researchers who indicate the substandard of the plants that the facility is cultivating. Studies have shown that marijuana that’s being grown at this facility is more chemically in line with hemp than the cannabis being sold in the legal state commercial markets.

Lyle Craker applied in 2001 to be a coveted DEA approved cannabis manufacturer. He was denied and told the reason for it was that at that time, the agency did not have the authority to approve additional processors. The University of Mississippi remained the solely approved facility. However, after waiting for a change, things turned in his favor when, in 2016, the doctor resubmitted his application.

Wasted time

According to MAPS Executive Direct Rick Doblin, if in 2001, Dr. Craker's application had been processed, today's medical marijuana medicine would now be widely available at pharmacies, regardless of what the state laws were. People with serious illness and compromised immune systems would have had the benefit of strict safety protocols and dosing regularities much earlier. Rick Doblin has compassion for the many people who have suffered unnecessarily because of the barrier that politics and prohibition-minded officials, such as the Attorney General, have generated.


The new suit facing the DEA focuses on the fact that the DEA unlawfully and unreasonably failed to take action on the second application submitted by Dr. Craker.


The DEA is facing a separate legal challenge because the Scottsdale Research Institution (SRI) believes that the agency has been deliberately stalling the approval of applications to avoid the addition of more cannabis manufacturers. The suit was dropped when the DEA provided a status update as per the court-mandated rule to make good on the promise to look at pending applications.

Secret documents

The original case filed against the DEA progressed to seeing those scientists file another suit in March. The scientists claimed that the agency was using secret documents which could delay the approval of the manufacturers submitted applications.

Final thoughts

The DEA has unveiled a revised rule change proposal. Finally! The agency states this was necessary due to the huge volume of applicants and also to address the potential complications of which the US is a party to in relation to international treaties. A public comment period is now available and open, after which the agency will approve an unspecified number of added cannabis growers.

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