The Feds' 'Research-Grade Cannabis' Is More Like Hemp than Retail Marijuana

The 'cannabis' available to American scientists for research purposes is much less like the weed people actually smoke and closer to hemp plants, says a new study.

Researchers looking to study cannabis in the US have only one place from which to source the stuff: a facility at the University of Mississippi that's been licensed by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) to grow marijuana for research purposes. Scientists have long criticized the marijuana grown by Ole Miss for being starkly different in strength and quality from the stuff consumers are actually using, but now we know just how huge the difference is.

A new study from the University of Northern Colorado compared 49 different cannabis samples, including legal retail marijuana, and the fed's research-grade weed and hemp. When the samples were genetically analyzed, the so-called 'research-grade' cannabis didn't end up looking much like cannabis at all. In fact, the only cannabis that is federally legal for research use is essentially just hemp, according to its genetics.

"Our genetic investigation adds to this previous research, indicating that the genetic makeup of NIDA Cannabis is also distinctive from commercially available medical and recreational Cannabis," the study's authors wrote.

This study throws doubt on the validity of many scientific findings using NIDA's approved cannabis, as a study participant is likely going to have a much different experience from consuming research-grade cannabis compared to marijuana sourced from either legal retailers or the black market.

"As the interest for medical Cannabis increases, it is important that research examining the threats and benefits of cannabis use accurately reflect the experiences of the general public," the researchers wrote.

Over the past few years, the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has been pushing the federal government to expand production of research-grade cannabis by licensing more producers. However, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has been holding up progress. 

Perhaps a study like this one will finally push the DOJ to stop pretending that scientists can just make do with studying cannabis that is nothing like what people actually consume.

h/t Marijuana Moment


With northern California's renowned cannabis festival, the Emerald Cup coming up next month, we're reflecting on all the fun we had last year with cannabis influencer Elise McRoberts interviewing Herbie Herbert, a former Santana roadie and manger for Journey, as well as Steve Parish, who managed the Jerry Garcia Band and went on the road with the Grateful Dead. Back int he day, bands touring the world had to smuggle their cannabis into Europe and other foreign countries. Traveling with equipment and other gear, roadies would have to find secret places to hide the stash.

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