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Two Colorado facilities believe they are well on their way to becoming the first breeders in the state to receive Drug Enforcement Administration approval for medical marijuana research purposes.
After years of waiting, NuVue Pharma and MedPharm Holdings are still striving for DEA approval to grow cannabis for federally sanctioned medical studies. MedPharm, which is already licensed by the city of Denver and the state of Colorado for the cultivation of medical marijuana for research purposes, has been waiting for a decision on its DEA application since 2016, according to CEO Albert Gutierrez.
Since 1968, the University of Mississippi has had a cannabis cultivation monopoly for federally recognized research, but the quality of the cannabis has been criticized by researchers. Application delays by former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the DEA slowed the process of licensing new growers for nearly four years before the Biden administration resumed application reviews in 2021. The DEA issued a handful of research licenses in May and is expected to award more in the near future.
With a larger research pool and more government support for cannabis research, Gutierrez believes the long overdue decision will help his company and others conduct better research into the effectiveness of medical marijuana. he plans to study the plant’s effects on neuropharmacology and diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, dementia and traumatic brain injuries.
MedPharm is currently awaiting a final verdict from the DEA following some review recommendations from the agency, and the company expects to receive a response soon based on the DEA’s announcement in May.
“If we are able to do research that articulates the medicinal value of cannabis, we can move on with the results, and this allows lawmakers to make better laws,” Gutierrez says. “It was a long process. We have heard a lot of anecdotal information, and now it is time to apply that research. “
Unlike MedPharm, NuVue applied to the DEA to become a bulk cannabis manufacturer and sent its first inquiry in 2019. According to Katharine Avery, NuVue’s senior vice president, the lengthy application process involved hundreds of pages of documentation to the DEA.
“You requested a lot of information from us. They are investigating the security of the facility in which vault the research-based cannabis is stored, ”she explains. “And they are also investigating the background of the company, including the owner and anyone in direct contact with the cultivation.”
Avery says NuVue is also waiting for a final DEA review with newfound optimism following developments in May. The company hopes to apply for a research cultivation license with the DEA in the future, she adds, and a supply partnership with the Colorado State University-Pueblo Institute of Cannabis Research is also in the works.
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Hilal is an alumni of the Metropolitan State University of Denver with a degree in political science. She has written for Denver Life Magazine and 303 Magazine and is currently the cannabis intern for Westword.