Seven universities are lobbying at the federal level on issues related to cannabis and hemp. Their biggest concern? Research.
University researchers across the country have limited access to research-grade cannabis. Only one farm at the University of Mississippi is federally approved to grow cannabis for research in other institutions. (The Drug Enforcement Administration currently has more than thirty applicants, including universities and cannabis businesses, waiting for approval to grow cannabis for research. Read Cannabis Wire’s coverage of these applicants.)
Two of the seven universities—the University of Colorado and the University of Maryland, Baltimore—listed “cannabis research,” and “the availability of marijuana for public health research” under specific lobbying issues in recent lobbying disclosures.
“Our faculty have expressed concerns about their ability to access cannabis and related products for purposes of public health research,” Ken McConnellogue, vice-president for communications at the Office of the President for the University of Colorado, told Cannabis Wire.
In addition, McConnellogue said the cannabis made available to universities for research by the DEA does not reflect the cannabis products that are widely available, which have become more diverse and potent as the market has matured.
Cannabis made available by the DEA for research purposes “differs from what is available over the counter in Colorado. Our faculty are limited in their abilities to study the potential health effects–either negative or positive–associated with the types of cannabis being used regularly by Coloradans,” McConnellogue said.
A second issue is the persistent difficulty in accessing funding for cannabis research. As long as cannabis remains federally illegal, some universities are reluctant to fund research on it for fear of losing federal aid.
To that end, the University of Maryland, Baltimore lobbied to prevent federal funds from being used to stop states from authorizing research into medical cannabis, according to Patricia Fanning, a University of Maryland, Baltimore spokesperson.
The University of Cincinnati Health (Greater Cincinnati’s academic health system which includes the University of Cincinnati Medical Center) also listed “medical marijuana” in its lobbying disclosures. UC Health, however, declined to comment on their lobbying activities.
The University of Kentucky and Oregon State University, both of which have hemp research programs, are also trying to get more funding through the United States Department of Agriculture.
OSU is advocating for investment by the USDA “for research needed to inform the developing and quickly growing industrial hemp sector,” Steve Clark, vice-president of university relations and marketing at Oregon State University, told Cannabis Wire. Oregon State University launched its Global Hemp Innovation Center for hemp research in June 2019. The center received $1 million as a gift from Oregon CBD, a cannabis research and development company, in October.
Cornell University and Louisiana State University’s AgCenter, meanwhile, lobbied around a “hemp germplasm repository (genetic material such as seeds and tissue)” and on “medical marijuana banking laws,” respectively. LSU AgCenter discussed the banking problems faced by Louisiana’s medical cannabis industry with their lobbyists in Washington D.C. upon request, according to Hampton Grunewald, associate vice president of governmental affairs at the AgCenter.
Cannabis Wire previously reported that universities in New York, including Cornell, are conducting wide-ranging research into hemp. Cornell was one of the first universities to be granted an industrial hemp research license by New York, in 2017. Cornell University declined to comment on its lobbying activity.
The universities that have lobbied on cannabis or hemp in the past year include: