The Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) has released, in unredacted form, a copy of its previously undisclosed June 6, 2018 memorandum on “Licensing Marijuana Cultivation in Compliance with the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs,” as part of a settlement in Scottsdale Research Institute v. Department of Justice. This 25-page OLC memo explains, in detail, how and why DOJ concluded in June 2018 that the DEA could not process applications from Scottsdale Research Institute and more than 30 others to manufacture marijuana for research that DEA solicited back in 2016.
Over the past two years, across ten letters and numerous congressional hearings, members of Congress from both political parties have repeatedly asked DOJ and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to explain why they had refused for years to process these applications or at least identify any legal barriers that were causing the delay. A key reason for the delay was this OLC memo, but DOJ and DEA refused to provide it to Congress (or the American public) or to even acknowledge its existence. To settle Scottsdale Research Institute’s Freedom of Information Act claim, however, OLC agreed to publish the June 6, 2018 memo—something it should have done long ago.
This latest result continues nearly five-years of work by our client, Dr. Sue Sisley, the founder of Scottsdale Research Institute, to pursue and win a major position shift from the DEA on medicinal cannabis policies that have stymied meaningful clinical research, and to educate the public on barriers to conducting meaningful marijuana research in the United States.
Last June, with pro bono help and strategizing from Shane Pennington and Matt Zorn, a lawsuit was filed on behalf of SRI in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit requesting a writ of mandamus to order the DEA to process its application to grow cannabis for clinical research. The court promptly ordered the agency to respond. Two days before the DEA’s court-ordered response explaining why it had not processed our client’s three-year-old application was due, the DEA capitulated. It processed not only SRI’s long overdue application, but all 33 then-pending applications to grow cannabis for research purposes. Along with the notice, DEA announced it would issue new guidelines to govern registration to grow cannabis for clinical research.
The DEA’s about-face, as well as the DOJ’s recent settlement involving the newly-released memorandum, has been reported on by the media and cannabis industry groups across the country.