One of the country's foremost cannabis researchers is suing the federal government because she believes their poor quality marijuana compromised her study.
Dr. Sue Sisley holds the distinction of being the first person that the federal government allowed to research medical marijuana as a treatment for PTSD. After reviewing the findings of her research, Sisley became concerned that the results had been skewed by the poor quality of the government's research-grade cannabis.
Currently, the University of Mississippi is the only facility licensed by the feds to grow marijuana for research purposes, so any federally funded research project must get its marijuana from them. However, the quality of the cannabis grown by the university has long been criticized by researchers who say it's inferior in quality as well as potency compared to what is available right now through both licensed dispensaries and the black market for marijuana.
"Most scientists end up with this mishmash of different strains (including stem sticks, leaves, etc.)—all of it seems to get thrown into a grinder in an overzealous effort to standardize the study drug batches for clinical trials," Sisley says in a statement about her suit. "I'm arguing that by doing that, they're overprocessing the plant and decimating the natural efficacy contained in the flowering tops."
Sisley believes the best way to deal with the issue would be for the federal government to license additional sites for cultivating research-grade cannabis. Doing so would provide scientists with greater variety of cannabis to study, and the competition among cultivators would push growers to improve the quality of their crops.
"Maintaining only one federally legal drug supply for any clinical trials in the US has been a huge impediment to research because it’s not allowing scientists access to necessary options," said Sisley.
The bad reviews shouldn't come as a surprise to federal regulators, who have promised to fix the problem in the past. Back in 2016, the DEA stated they would begin granting additional licenses to cultivate research-grade cannabis. However, they have yet to actually approve any new growers. So instead of waiting around for them to take action, Sisley is forcing the issue by filing a lawsuit.
The DEA would not comment of Sisley's suit, but a spokesperson stressed that they are "still working through the process and those applications remain under review."
If Sisley wins her suit, then the federal government would be forced to process the 30+ cannabis applications that have already been submitted. But until then, the small amount of researchers who do actually get approved to study cannabis are stuck with the subpar crops of Ole Miss.