DENVER -- Colorado leaders are asking the feds to allow our colleges to grow pot. It might sound like an unusual request, but it’s part of the state’s effort to increase access to quality marijuana research.
The Colorado attorney general's office sent a letter to the several federal agencies, seeking permission to grow marijuana for research purposes. The letter also seeks expanded authority for state colleges and universities to contract with the National Institute of Drug Abuse to conduct that research.
Though adults in Colorado have had no trouble getting their hands on marijuana in the past year, many university researchers have had their hands tied.
"Even though we say that things are legal in Colorado for state purposes, which is true, there is still a lot of bureaucratic red tape that has to be cut through in order for this type of research to be done," said state representative Dan Pabon (District 4).
Pabon says that red tape can scare away universities who rely on federal funding, or at least delay their research efforts. That's why he applauds a letter from the Attorney General's office, which is requesting more leeway from the feds.
Though can be legally grown in Colorado the only place allowed to grow marijuana for federally approved studies is located at the University of Mississippi, and it's under the direction of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
"They are the ones that decide what research is and isn't done and we need to break that stranglehold," said Teri Robnett, a member of Colorado’s Medical Marijuana Scientific Advisory Council.
The Advisory Council received applause from medical marijuana patients last month, after approving more than $8 million in state funds for marijuana research. Despite the effort, Robnett said there are many more studies needed and many more researchers who are left waiting by the feds.
"In some cases it's taken (researchers) 12 years to get a response finally, and then their response is no," Robnett said. "It really is a huge problem."
Some experts say they don't expect federal agencies to make any immediate changes to the research process, but they are hopeful the letter will lead to an eventual shift in policy.
"It's like any other aspect of this field,” Pabon said. “Whether it's banking, now scientific research, we need some solutions in place as soon as we can have them and this is a step in the right direction for getting that."