The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency’s decision to import marijuana extracts from Canada has fired up Rep. Matt Gaetz, Florida Republican, in light of the Justice Department causing obstacles for the U.S. cannabis industry.
Mr. Gaetz took to Twitter on Wednesday in response to a report that said the Justice Department has approved the import of cannabis compounds from a Canadian company, Tilray Inc., to be used in a research study conducted at the University of California in San Diego.
Reacting in a tweet, the congressman accused Attorney General Jeff Sessions of ignoring dozens of U.S.-based applicants that have unsuccessfully sought permission to grow research-grade marijuana for the government.
“Unbelievable,” tweeted Mr. Gaetz, a member of the House Armed Services, Budget and Judiciary committees. “#DEAgives approval to import #cannabis compounds from Canada, while AG Sessions is sitting on 2 dozen+ applications from domestic manufacturers.”
“What happened to ‘buy American, hire American’?” asked Mr. Gaetz.
Despite being legal for medical purposes in 31 states, including Florida, marijuana is illegal under federal law, posing problems for growers and scientists alike hoping to contribute towards studying the plant’s potential benefits by and through federally-sponsored research facilities.
Currently only one facility — the University of Mississippi — is licensed to harvest research-grade weed for the government, though the Justice Department under former President Barack Obama agreed in 2016 to open the floodgates and authorize additional growers. The Justice Department under Mr. Sessions has failed to follow through, however, leaving the DEA with few alternatives prior to cutting a deal with Tilray.
Last week, meanwhile, the House Judiciary Committee passed a proposal introduced by Mr. Gaetz in April, the Medical Cannabis Research Act of 2018, that would effective end the university’s monopoly by increasing the number of government-approved marijuana growers from one to three.
“While there are many varying opinions on the issue of marijuana, one thing we all can agree on is that we need qualified researchers to study the science to determine if there are any potential medicinal benefits to chemicals derived from cannabis,” Rep. Bob Goodlatte, Virginia Republican and the Judiciary Committee’s chairman, said in a statement applauding the bill’s passage.
The bill passed by a voice vote and is pending further action in the House.
The DEA’s arrangement with British Columbia’s Tilray is slated to result in the importation of capsules containing CBD and THC, marijuana’s main active compounds, to be used in a study on their effectiveness treating tremors.
“It’s a really big milestone for Tilray and also just for the whole industry,” Catherine Jacobson, Tilray’s director of clinical research, told The Associated Press after the deal was announced. “Researchers in the U.S. have really been limited to doing research using dried flower.”
Canada has federally legalized marijuana for both recreational and medical purposes, and retail dispensaries are slated to start selling commercial cannabis products to adults across the country starting next month.