Saturday, July 7, 2018
The title of this post is the headline of this recent Reason piece by Mike Riggs, which gets started this way:
It's been almost two years since the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) began accepting applications for new growers of research cannabis, and two dozen applicants are still in regulatory limbo.
Since the DEA announced in August 2016 that it would end the federal monopoly on producing cannabis for scientific research in the United States, growers, investors, researchers, applicants, and even members of Congress have sought to understand why a relatively simple licensing review process has stretched on for nearly two years. The answer is pretty straightforward: Attorney General Jeff Sessions, for reasons he has not publicly disclosed, decided to intervene in a process that has historically not involved the attorney general in order to stop the DEA from issuing licenses to growers.
While the Controlled Substances Act gives the attorney general regulatory authority over scheduled drugs, that authority has historically been delegated to the DEA, which is part of the Justice Department. The DEA has a whole division, in fact, dedicated to "investigat[ing] the diversion of controlled pharmaceuticals and listed chemicals from legitimate sources while ensuring an adequate and uninterrupted supply for legitimate medical, commercial, and scientific needs."
Members of Congress are not happy with Sessions' obstruction of the licensing process. In April, Sens. Orrin Hatch (R–Utah) and Kamala Harris (D–Calif.) sent the attorney general a letter in which they asked him to provide the Senate with a timeline for processing applications from potential manufacturers of research marijuana. They also asked the DOJ to update applicants on the review process. Both actions, Hatch and Harris suggested, should be completed by May 15, 2018. Not only did the DOJ miss that deadline, but it doesn't seem interested in playing catch-up.
Four license applicants I interviewed in late June told me they've received no official updates from either the DEA or the DOJ in months. Applicants who have spoken to congressional offices working on this issue say their contacts are equally frustrated by Sessions' obstruction of the DEA's licensing process.