The marijuana provided by the University of Mississippi for clinical research purposes is genetically dissimilar to cannabis strains commercially available at retail markets in legal states, according to an analysis published in the journal Frontiers in Plant Science. Since 1968, the University of Mississippi’s farm, which is governed by the US National Institute on Drug Abuse, has been the only legal source of cannabis for use in FDA-approved research.
A team of researchers affiliated with the University of Northern California performed genetic analyses on NIDA-provided “research-grade marijuana” samples and then compared them to samples of commercially available cannabis.
Consistent with prior assessments, authors reported: “Our results clearly demonstrate that NIDA cannabis samples are substantially genetically different from most commercially available drug-type strains and share a genetic affinity with hemp samples in several of the analyses. We do not claim that NIDA is supplying hemp for cannabis research, rather we are confident that our analyses show that the ‘research grade marijuana’ supplied by NIDA is genetically different from the retail drug-type samples analyzed in this study.”
They added, “Given both this genetic and previous chemotypic investigations have concluded that NIDA is supplying product that does not align with what is available for consumers, our hope is that the NIH and NIDA will support the cultivation of cannabis that is representative of what medical and recreational consumers are using. Medical practitioners, researchers and patients deserve access to cannabis products that are comparable to products available on the legal market.”
Scientists wishing to conduct FDA-approved clinical trials on cannabis have long complained that federally-provided samples are of poor quality. According to NIDA’s current marijuana menu, no available samples contain more than seven percent THC and all samples contain less than one percent CBD.
In May, the US Drug Enforcement Administration announced for the first time its intent to license additional entities to cultivate marijuana for FDA-approved research purposes. The move came some five years after the agency had initially announced its intent to expand the supply of cannabis available to federally-approved researchers.
NORML has long argued that scientists ought to be permitted to bypass NIDA’s marijuana supply and instead utilize cannabis products manufactured by state-licensed producers. Last week, a bipartisan group of lawmakers reintroduced legislation, The Medical Marijuana Research Act, in the US House of Representatives that seeks to permit FDA-approved scientists to use state-legal cannabis products in clinical research trials. House lawmakers passed the same measure last year, but the language was never taken up in the Senate.
Full text of the study, “Comparative genetic structure of cannabis sativa – including federally produced, wild collected, and cultivate samples,” appears in Frontiers in Plant Science.