Since 1968, a single facility at the University of Mississippi has had a monopoly over federal legal cannabis production. But, in March of 2022, the federal government approved five new American companies to grow and study cannabis for medical research and to bring new options to the marketplace.
Since marijuana has held the status of a Schedule 1 drug, research has been scant in the United States. Schedule 1 is defined as “having no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” Those who were already using marijuana for medical purposes had helped to accumulate anecdotal evidence that neither of these are true of marijuana, not to mention decades of scientific research and medical data that was ignored. Disgraced Attorney General John Mitchell of the Nixon administration placed it there in 1971 and there it has remained ever since. Despite the wave of researchers, physicians, and patients embracing marijuana for its healing properties, the ranking has become insulated by a federal bureaucratic process that protects it.
In the late 19th Century, cannabis was sold openly in pharmacies and was a popular ingredient in many medicines. It wasn’t until later when the Mexican Revolution of 1910 spurred a wave of Mexican immigration to the United States that cannabis began to also be called the more foreign-sounding “marijuana.” Public sentiment turned against cannabis soon after and, by 1931, 29 states had outlawed it. Because of this shift, most research was halted in the United States.
But, research continued in other countries and miraculous discoveries were revealed. In 1963, Israeli chemist Raphael Mechoulam first isolated CBD and THC in 1964. This encouraged other researchers and the pace began to pick up again, even in the United States. In 1968, the University of Mississippi contracted with the federal government to grow cannabis for research. Up until recently, that has been the only source of cannabis for the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Drug Supply Program. Mahmoud A. ElSohly, Ph.D., took the position of Director over the Marijuana Research Project and is currently still holding the title. He has written more than 250 scholarly articles over the course of his career based on data gathered from the project.
But, those researchers who did sign up to research marijuana for medical purposes reported that the product being produced in Mississippi was of poor quality and inadequate for clinical trials. Since becoming legal in dozens of states, researchers have had the opportunity to compare and have found that the cannabinoid levels in the cannabis they had been using from Mississippi to be far weaker than comparable state-grown cannabis. Elsohly admits the difference, stating that what he grows in Mississippi contains between two and six percent THC versus as much as 30% in commercially available cannabis.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) announced these changes and the opportunity for those who qualified to become registered in 2016, but it didn’t actually happen until May of 2021.
Founders of the four companies newly approved to grow and study cannabis for medical research say their product will better allow researchers to study one or any combination of the plant’s more than 100 compounds. The compounds include cannabinoids such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabidiol (CBD), cannabigerol (CBG), as well as terpenes, the compounds that give plants their scent and flavor, and flavonoids.
Currently, the companies approved by the DEA as bulk manufacturer marijuana growers include:
The DEA also has a website with a list of current marijuana growers as well as more information on how to become a DEA-approved grower for those who qualify and are interested.
Though making research on medical marijuana less litigious, there are still many variables that must be overcome to provide reliable data and this is just the first step. The research will be ongoing with the hope of turning anecdotal claims about marijuana into proven scientific fact.
If you’re interested in learning more about medical marijuana in Louisiana, the staff and physicians at The Healing Clinics are here to provide answers. Our team will walk with you every step of your healing journey. We are not a “one and done” like some telehealth companies you may find. We are professionals who are committed to guiding all of our patients toward healing.