by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director April 15, 2019

Marijuana FieldMarijuana grown by the University of Mississippi for clinical research purposes is genetically divergent from strains of cannabis commercially available in retail markets, according to an analysis prepared by researchers at the University of Northern Colorado. Since 1968, the University of Mississippi farm, which is governed by the US National Institute on Drug Abuse, has held the only available federal license to legally cultivate cannabis for FDA-approved research.

Authors reported that samples available via the U-Miss program shared genetics typically associated with industrial hemp, not commercially available cannabis. They concluded: “NIDA research grade marijuana was found to genetically group with hemp samples along with a small subset of commercial drug-type cannabis. A majority of commercially available drug-type cannabis was genetically very distinct from NIDA samples. These results suggest that subjects consuming NIDA research grade marijuana may experience different effects than average consumers.”

A separate study published in 2017 reported that U-Miss samples contain far lower levels of both THC and CBD than do commercially available cannabis. Clinicians wishing to conduct FDA-approved clinical trials on cannabis have long complained that federally-provided samples are of inferior quality.

According to the program’s current marijuana menu, no available samples contain more than seven percent THC and all samples contain less than one percent CBD.

In 2016, the US Drug Enforcement Administration publicly announced that it would, for the first time, begin accepting applications from private entities wishing to grow research-grade cannabis. However, since that time, neither the agency nor the Justice Department have taken any action to move this application process forward.

Full text of the study, “Research grade marijuana supplied by the National Institute on Drug Abuse is genetically divergent from commercially available Cannabis,” appears online here.