Research & Studies

NorCal congressman urges more American-grown cannabis for research

North Coast U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman joined a bipartisan group of 12 other legislators in signing a letter sent seeking to allow more American-grown cannabis to be used for research.

This comes on the heels of the Drug Enforcement Agency approving the import of cannabis from Canada for research.

“Cannabis offers breakthrough possibilities to help alleviate suffering and disease, but more research is needed,” the letter states. “Currently, there is only one legal domestic supplier of marijuana for research purposes.”

Huffman

Since 1968, only one supplier has been approved to provide cannabis for research — the University of Mississippi — and they don’t have the THC and CBD capsules UC San Diego would like to use with its research.

The letter goes on to state that U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions himself has said, “I think it would be healthy to have some more competition in the supply.” Yet two years later, the letter notes, no additional manufacturers have been approved.

The letter also cites an executive order issued by President Donald Trump encouraging people to “Buy American and Hire American.”

“Despite the Department of Justice and DEA possessing over two dozen applications from qualified domestic manufacturers, however, DEA approved the importations of products from Canada,” the letter states.

Huffman said his state alone could provide the necessary products for research, but he adds that he doesn’t believe it would be a big part of the industry.

“I am sure that here in California we would have anything they would possibly need for their research project,” he told Cannifornian sister newspaper the Eureka Times-Standard on Tuesday. “I don’t want to suggest this is some big business for our cannabis industry. I suspect it would be a small amount that would be involved. But it’s still galling that we would pass legal California sources and force the university to purchase from Canada.”

Huffman said he is “not wildly optimistic” Sessions will respond to the letter.

“He wants to drag us back to the 1800s,” he said. “I think it’s important that we push back on these issues.”

He also pointed to the Trump Administration’s lack of a clear message.

“This is another example of the incoherence when it comes to federal policy on cannabis,” he said. “The stubbornness and the fact that they just can’t bring themselves to deal with the issue rationally.”

Hezekiah Allen, a Humboldt County native and the executive director of the California Growers Association, called the situation “almost comical.”

“If it weren’t for people incarcerated and patients without access I might be laughing,” he said. “As it is, this is no laughing matter and we need more of this type of leadership from Congress to make things right.”

Asked whether any businesses in Humboldt County, or the broader Emerald Triangle, were interested in pursuing this line of business, he responded that “at this point, it’s hypothetical.”

“There is no clear process for engaging in research and there is too much regulatory uncertainty,” he added.

But he is adamant that more research is needed.

“Cannabis provides relief from a wide range of symptoms and promotes general well-being, by the many millions of Americans who regularly enjoy it, but more research is key to unlocking specific therapies and medicinal uses, as well as empowering us to use more responsibly and grow more sustainably. There are a lot of questions to answer as cannabis emerges into the mainstream,” he said. “We strongly support more cannabis research and I expect many growers would be eager to participate if the opportunity were available.”

Ruth Schneider can be reached at 707-441-0520.