The history of the DEA and marijuana is long and, at times, controversial. But it appears that that controversy may be coming to an end.
In May 2021, the DEA announced its intention to start emitting official marijuana cultivation licenses to third-party applicants. Although the decree has not been released yet, the idea behind it is to optimize the opportunities for medical and scientific research about cannabis.
The only entity labeled as an approved supplier of marijuana for research purposes in the U.S. is the National Center for the Development of Natural Products at the University of Mississippi. Which exclusively supplies cannabis plants to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Although nothing is official to date, the DEA has been receiving applications actively from other potential suppliers who may classify as an official marijuana manufacturer for research purposes. Some of these manufacturers have been attributed with a Memo of Agreement provided by the DEA to those "consistent with legal standards and relevant laws" about the cultivation of cannabis (DEA Continues to Prioritize Efforts to Expand Access to Marijuana for Research in the United States, 2021).
There have also been a series of regulations emitted since December 18th of 2020 that potential suppliers can visit if they seek to become registered with the DEA as a bulk manufacturer for research purposes. Rules include requirements such as documenting their customers' research license, authorization from their government state authority for cannabis cultivation, and other safety requirements.
Applicants granted a Memo would work in conjunction with the DEA to facilitate the production, storage, packaging, and distribution of their harvest, on top of other processes to ensure compliance with laws and regulations.
While there is only one DEA-licensed manufacturer, there are over 575+ DEA-licensed researchers in the country. This allows us to anticipate the authorization of registrations to the manufacturers who received official DEA Memos.
Though the DEA's announcement of their review for issuance of an official marijuana cultivation license is met with positivity in the industry, their delay in this 'review' has some contrasting criticism. Some sectors of the industry remember their first announcement on the subject being made back in 2016. All that is left to do is wait and see the DEA's final statement, which is expected to come sometime this year.