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

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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 Olé 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

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