Jeff Sessions Blocks MMJ Research, Despite Congress’ Approval

By Bryan Le 07/17/18

The DEA has been accepting applications for new growers of research cannabis for two years, but the program has not moved forward at all thanks to Sessions.

Jeff Sessions official portrait.
Sessions is just saying no. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

It’s been two years since the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) opened up applications for new growers of research cannabis, but two dozen applicants haven’t heard a peep from the federal government for one simple reason: Jeff Sessions doesn’t want it to happen.

The DEA decided to end the federal monopoly on growing cannabis for research purposes in 2016, opening up the opportunity to applicants from all over the United States. However, the licensing process has come to a standstill because Sessions has taken the unprecedented step of intervening in the DEA’s decisions.

Historically, the attorney general of the United States has not been involved in the regulation of scheduled drugs. Instead, the DEA has been in charge of such affairs, including “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.”

Objections to Sessions’ actions have come from both sides of the aisle, with Senators Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Kamala Harris (D-California) sending a bipartisan complaint letter asking Sessions to provide a timeline for processing and potentially licensing these applicants.

“Expanded research has been called for by President Trump's Surgeon General, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, the FDA, the CDC, the National Highway Safety Administration, the National Institute of Health, the National Cancer Institute, the National Academies of Sciences, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse,” wrote the senators in their letter. “In order to facilitate such research, scientists and lawmakers must have timely guidance on whether, when, and how these manufacturers' applications will be resolved.”

Sessions’ Department of Justice (DOJ) missed the March 15, 2018 deadline to provide this timeline and doesn’t seem to want to cooperate.

Four applicants contacted by Reason say they haven’t heard back from the DOJ or the DEA for months. Responses included:

"'No formal communication," "Hoping to hear more soon," and "Just silence."

Sessions has suggested that the DEA isn’t prepared to supervise these proposed cannabis manufacturers despite the DEA regularly supervising dozens of new non-marijuana drug manufacturers this year.

Senators Hatch and Harris have set a new deadline for Sessions to act on these applicants: August 11, 2018.

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Bryan Le grew up in the 90's, so the Internet is practically his third parent. This combined with a love for journalism led him to The Fix. When he isn't fulfilling his duties as Editorial Coordinator, he's obsessing over fancy keyboards he can't justify buying. Find Bryan on LinkedIn or Twitter