In an earlier blog post we informed readers that, in response to a mandamus petition of the Scottsdale Research Institute (SRI), the D.C. Circuit issued an order requiring the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to explain why it allowed cannabis – consisting of the marijuana plant, with greater than 0.3% THC content – to be grown for scientific and medical research purposes at only one location, the University of Mississippi. The DEA was given 30 days to respond.

In lieu of a direct response to this order, the DEA announced in the Federal Register on August 27, 2019, that it “intends to promulgate regulations that govern the program of growing marihuana for scientific and medical research under DEA registration.” The DEA’s announcement stated that it had received 33 pending applications to grow the cannabis.  These applications stem from universities and private companies, and come from across the country. DEA supplemented its announcement in the Federal Register on October 11, 2019. That supplement clarified that SRI is one of the applicants in the running to receive a DEA grow license.

On October 18, 2019, the D.C. Circuit issued an order, stating its view that, because SRI’s application was now moving forward through the regulatory process, SRI’s writ of mandamus would be denied as moot. The D.C. Circuit’s order emphasizes that the Court expects DEA to act on the pending applications, and that the mandamus petition may be renewed “in the event of significant delay.”

The DEA stated in its Federal Register notice that it “anticipates evaluating the applications and, of those applications that it finds are compliant with relevant laws, regulations, and treaties, granting the number that the agency determines is necessary to ensure an adequate and uninterrupted supply of the controlled substances at issue under adequately competitive conditions.”  The DEA has not provided a timeline for evaluating the applications and selecting new DEA-approved cannabis growers.  Nevertheless, the D.C. Circuit’s veiled threat that it would reconsider SRI’s mandamus petition “in the event of significant delay” is certain to be a consideration as the DEA moves forward in its evaluation.