Court Dismisses Case Demanding DEA to Move Expeditiously to License Cannabis Cultivators

A federal court on Friday denied a petition for a writ of mandamus that sought to order the US Drug Enforcement Administration to begin licensing private entities that wish to cultivate cannabis.

Justices for the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia denied the petition following a filing by DEA in the Federal Register stating that the agency “intends to promulgate regulations” to review several dozen federal cultivation applications. However, most of those applications have been before DEA for several years, and the agency still has yet to provide any explicit timeline regarding when, if ever it intends to act on them.

The agency in 2016 first announced its intent to license private entities to grow cannabis for FDA-approved clinical trials. That marked a reversal in agency policy, as in 2011 it rejecting a ruling from its own Administrative Law Judge finding that it would be ‘in the public interest’ to grant the University of Massachusetts a license to grow marijuana for federally regulated research. Since 1968, the agency has only licensed the University of Mississippi to engage in the growing of cannabis for FDA-approved clinical research.

In June of this year, one applicant – the Scottsdale Research Institute – filed a petition in the US Court of Appeals to order the DEA to comply with its 2016 policy. The Court dismissed the case on Friday, opining, “In light of respondent’s October 11, 2019 publication in the Federal Register of a corrected notice of petitioner’s application to manufacture controlled substances in bulk, petitioner’s request for a writ of mandamus directing respondent to issue a notice of application is now moot.” The Court further opined that petitioners had failed to establish that the DEA possessed a history of engaging in “chronic delays” with regard to taking steps to expand scientists’ access to medical cannabis.

The Court’s order permits petitioners to return to the Court of Appeals “in the event” that DEA engages in “significant delays” in the future.

An interview with one of the researchers involved in this case, Dr. Sue Sisley, is available here.