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Republican Members of Congress Just Sent Jeff Sessions Yet Another Letter Asking Him To Stop Holding Up Marijuana Research

Two years after the DEA announced it would approve new manufacturers of research cannabis, Sessions refuses to explain why he's sitting on the applications.

Ken Cedeno/ZUMA Press/NewscomKen Cedeno/ZUMA Press/NewscomA private letter obtained by Reason shows that members of Congress—both Republicans and Democrats—are still pleading with Attorney General Jeff Sessions to review 26 outstanding applications from potential new manufacturers of research cannabis.

"In light of the fact that August 11, 2018 marked two years since the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) stated that they would accept registrations for manufacturers of marijuana for research usage, we write to encourage you to finalize your review of the submitted applications," reads the letter [PDF], which a bipartisan group of House members sent to Sessions on August 31.

The person who provided the document to Reason says it is the latest of at least 15 letters members of both the House and the Senate have sent to Sessions regarding the delayed approval of research cannabis applications. Seven of these letters have been publicly posted or shared by the legislators who signed them; Sessions has also received eight private letters asking for an explanation for the delayed review.

"No one has been answered," the source told Reason.

Fourteen House members signed the Aug. 31 letter, including Reps. Carlos Curbelo (R–Fla.), Matt Gaetz (R–Fla.), Dana Rohrabacher (R–Calif.), Don Young (R–Alaska), Tom Garrett (R–Va.), and Ryan Costello (R–Pa.), along with eight Democrats.

Sens. Orrin Hatch (R–Utah) and Kamala Harris (D–Calif.) also sent a letter to Sessions on August 31 to follow up on a letter they sent April 12, 2018. The April letter, which Reason previously covered, asked Sessions to answer congressional queries about applications to manufacture research cannabis by May 15, 2018. Sessions ignored that deadline, along with another deadline set by Hatch: that the Justice Department resolve 26 pending applications by August 11, 2018, the two-year anniversary of the DEA's announcement.

In short, Sessions has refused not only to allow the DEA to process these applications, but also to explain to Congress, applicants, or the public why he's interfering in regulatory actions that are routine for companies seeking to manufacture schedule I and II substances other than cannabis.

At an April Senate hearing, Sessions said approving new research cannabis manufacturers could violate the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotics. This is almost certainly not true, and several other signatory countries—the United Kingdom and Israel among them—have managed to reconcile their cannabis research policies with the U.N. agreement without stifling innovation or research. To date, this remains the only argument Sessions has publicly offered for interfering in the application review process.

The DEA announced in August 2016 that it planned to approve new producers of research-grade cannabis for use in pharmaceutical development and human studies. Currently, and for the last several decades, the federal government has allowed only one person in the U.S. to produce cannabis for research purposes. That person is Mahmoud ElSohly, a researcher at the University of Mississippi, who grows cannabis under a contract with the National Institutes for Drug Abuse (NIDA). Researchers who are licensed by the federal government to study marijuana in the U.S. must use material obtained only from NIDA, despite credible concerns about quality control and about the agency's ability to provide material that reflects the diversity of products available to consumers in state-legal markets.

ElSohly's monopoly, sustained only by the Justice Department's refusal to approve new applicants, poses an insurmountable obstacle for American academics and drug companies. The Food and Drug Administration will not approve clinical trials using ElSohly's product, which means American companies cannot develop cannabis-based prescription drugs; federal law, meanwhile, prohibits academics from conducting human studies using the cannabis products that are commonly available in retail settings across the country. (Epidiolex, the first cannabis-derived prescription product to gain FDA approval, was developed using cannabis grown legally in the United Kingdom.)

That Americans know so little about a drug as widely consumed as cannabis is almost beyond belief; that Sessions bears some responsibility for the anemic state of U.S. cannabis research is not. But his fellow Republicans seem to be growing tired of whatever game Sessions is playing. To the House members who wrote him on Aug. 31, approving new manufacturers of research cannabis is a no-brainer: "It is good policy, it is simply the right thing to do, and it falls within our national controlled substances regulatory framework."

Photo Credit: Ken Cedeno/ZUMA Press/Newscom

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  • Fist of Etiquette||

    They wrote some letters. What more can Congress do?

  • Bearded Spock||

    If only our Constitution had given Congress the power to pass or repeal legislation then they wouldn't have to ask in the first place.

    The Supreme Court needs to step in and remove the legislative authority from the Executive Branch and give it to the House and Senate. #LivingConstitution

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    Democrats (and a few Republicans who are not stale, close-minded drug warriors) will handle this in due time.

  • Deconstructed Potato||

    You do know that historically there has been broad support for The War on Drugs among your precious blue team.

  • Fuck you, Shikha (Nunya)||

    The Rev preaches without referring to any books.

  • Fuck you, Shikha (Nunya)||

    Reference...

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    If only there were some branch of government that had the authority to deal with this sticky marijuana issue.

  • Rockabilly||

    I research marijuana at home.

    Unlike Sessions and Joe Biden, I find marijuana not to be a gateway drug to heroin.

    I have never tried heroin nor does my body crave it.

    Therefore Sessions and Biden are liars.

  • Eddy||

    "The system's gangrene cannot be whitewashed forever" - Fordam panelists praise the Pope's sick burns against capitalism

    "NEW YORK — Pope Francis' social teaching offers a dire and needed warning about the twin calamities of economic inequality and climate change, said Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, New Jersey, and Columbia University economist Jeffrey Sachs at a Sept. 5 seminar at Fordham University's Lincoln Center campus here....

    "Sachs agreed that the pope's sometimes-scathing statements on capitalism are a needed counterweight to American overconfidence that unfettered capitalism can provide a pathway out of the dual crises of climate change and economic inequality....

    "But before the critique of capitalism and church social teaching could be discussed, the metaphorical elephant in the room — the continued onslaught of sex abuse issues afflicting the church — was addressed.

    "David Gibson, director of the Fordham Center on Religion and Culture, which sponsored the event that drew an overflow crowd to a 400-seat lecture hall, noted that the church has to address the sex abuse crisis. But that doesn't preclude shutting down discussion of Catholic social justice teaching, he said.

    ""We are capable of being a both-and church," he said."

  • Sometimes a Great Notion||

    "In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty." Proverbs 14:23

    Guess he just skipped this in his Bible studies.

  • Tamfang||

    The Bible don't say nothing about smoking the devil's parsley. What else do you need to know??

  • Sometimes a Great Notion||

    That was on the 3rd stone tablet Moses dropped.

    Moses

  • Zeb||

    Well, he is a stupid southerner.

  • Dillinger||

    >>>cannabis is a no-brainer

    only words Beauregard read.

  • Sometimes a Great Notion||

    Trump should fire him over this. He wants him gone so fire him for defying Congress.

  • perlchpr||

    I don't think he's allowed to until the Mueller thing is over, because it'll look like a conflict of interest, I guess?

    But yeah, Congress bitching about this is just stupid. If they wanted to, they could introduce a bill tomorrow that just flat out legalized weed.

  • Thomas O.||

    And Petty Pete Sessions will block it, just like he did with all the other bills that even hinted at changing weed's illegal status.

    This is the only reason I support a Democratic takeover of the House. If the GOP keeps their majority, I can't trust any kind of new leadership with overhauling the House Rules Committee or changing the status quo.

  • Tony||

    All Jefferson Beauregard Old Hickory Hootenanny Cornhole "Pappy" Sessions ever wanted was to be the most dignified Attorney General ever and fight the war on weed until the last joint is extinguished. But in the spirit of "be careful what you wish for" of so many tales of irony, he serves under the least dignified creature in existence and America is legalizing weed faster than he can roast a squirrel. And for extra irony, he's Democrats' last, best hope.

  • Horny Lizard||

    Shouldn't they address that letter to Trump and shouldn't he issue an executive order?

  • AlmightyJB||

    "Sessions refuses to explain why he's sitting on the applications."

    Let me explain for him. It's because he's an ignorant asshole.

  • Jerry B.||

    Of all the bone-headed things Trump has done, appointing Sessions AG might just top the list.

  • Hank Phillips||

    How else could he comply with the letter and spirit of the Republican platform? Burn crosses in the Rose Garden?

  • vek||

    Seriously. He's been dumb about the weed stuff, several other issues, AND he's been a total pussy about going after any of the shady shit the Democrats have done. He should get shit canned and replaced with somebody who has some balls and brains.

  • Longtobefree||

    Why don't the letters explain in detail why there will be zero funds for DEA in the next budget?
    Oh, wait. That would require accepting personal responsibility for doing their jobs.
    Maybe they could make a citizen's arrest of Sessions for failing to move Marijuana off schedule one because it has proven medical uses, and cannot be listed on schedule one.
    Or maybe they are just a bunch of incompetent lying politicians.

  • Arch Stanton||

    Damn. It's a real shame that these people are not a part of a coequal branch of government with powers under article I of the Constitution.

  • Hank Phillips||

    Don't listen to the "liberals," Beauregard! Instead, let those billions flow into Canada like young men fleeing press gangs & involuntary servitude and young women fleeing forced labor and death by coathanger! Canook voters, whatever their faults, have with their Libertarian Party spoiler votes earned the freedom Americans can only envy... and pay for, retail, in imported dribs and drabs.

  • Hank Phillips||

    Beauregard's state and neighboring bible-exporting Tennessee are as firmly committed to enslavement by force as they were in 1860. Like every surviving dictatorship, both klavern governments prohibit all possibility of their knaves and slaves having a chance to vote libertarian. So, you expected honesty?

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