The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has been trying to bump up the production of research-grade marijuana for years now, but the Department of Justice (DOJ) keeps preventing that from happening. And that means the people waiting to grow the stuff have been stuck in limbo.
"I feel like the government I fought to protect doesn't understand the urgency of this problem," George Hodgin—a former Navy SEAL and one of the many people who have applied to grow cannabis for research purposes under a new DEA program—told Vox.
"My story should be the American dream: A Navy SEAL uses the GI Bill to get a graduate education and start a company that helps Americans and creates jobs. But sadly, the DOJ and DEA are playing politics with science and lives, and instead big government inertia and red tape are blocking critical research."
Hodgin, like everyone else who hoped to get in on the DEA's proposed expansion of research-grade cannabis, have been left waiting for years to get approval to grow legal pot by the Justice Department. This waiting has led to increased frustration, both from people like Hodgin and the scientists hoping to do the research the federal government has already deemed necessary.
Currently, however, there is only one place that researchers are allowed to get their pot —the University of Mississippi. And even if you do make it through the gruelling application process, the marijuana you're liable to receive is such poor quality that it bears little resemblance to the drug people are actually using in real life. This means that only a tiny amount of cannabis research can actually be done in the US, and that it will almost always be of subpar quality.
"The National Academies of Sciences, as well as scientists and researchers themselves, have repeatedly stressed that they need a greater diversity of research-quality cannabis," Hodgin said. "There shouldn't be a government monopoly on something that's so important.
Until recently, the biggest factor preventing the DOJ from approving marijuana grow sites was former Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his extraordinarily hard line stance against all things weed-related. With William Barr's recent appointment to the position, many people were hopeful things would change. But Barr has stated he is not in support of broad cannabis legalization, though he does think research should be encouraged.
Despite this, Barr has continued to keep us, and people like Hodgin, waiting for the federal government to actually commit themselves to truly supporting marijuana research.