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NIDA's Role in Providing Marijuana for Research

Revised July 2014

NIDA supports a drug supply program, which provides controlled substances (including research-grade marijuana) to researchers for scientific purposes. The marijuana supply program operates pursuant to the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (PDF, 680KB), which requires each Nation to designate a single official source of marijuana for medicinal research. In the United States, NIDA has been designated the responsible agency.

NIDA contracts with the University of Mississippi to grow marijuana for use in research studies. The University designates a secure plot of land where marijuana crops are grown every few years, depending on demand. The marijuana is grown, harvested, stored, and made into cigarettes or other purified elements of marijuana to use for research.

To obtain research-grade marijuana through the NIDA drug supply program, all applicants must fulfill the following three requirements:

  1. Demonstrate scientific validity and ethical soundness through either:
    • For NIH-funded projects - through NIH review, consisting of three steps: (1) the NIH peer review system, which assesses the scientific and technical merit of all grant applications; (2) the Institute’s National Advisory Council, comprising eminent scientists as well as public members from the community; and (3) the Institute Director, who makes the final decision on the merit of an application for funding, based on peer review, public health significance, and Institute priorities. To find studies approved through this NIH review process, go to http://projectreporter.nih.gov/reporter.cfm (you should use the search terms “marijuana,” “cannabis,” and “cannabinoid”).

    • For studies not funded by NIH  - through a Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) scientific review panel, which consists of experts from across HHS with backgrounds relevant to the research being proposed.  The final decision as to whether or not to approve a proposal is based on the consensus of the experts on the review committee. To date, 18 applications to obtain marijuana for medical research have been submitted by potential researchers not funded by NIH; of those, 16 received approval to obtain research-grade marijuana from NIH. (Independently Funded Studies Receiving Research Grade Marijuana - 1999 to present)
  2. An IND application on file with the FDA (for human research only); and
  3. A DEA registration for a Schedule I controlled substance.

When the above steps have been completed, investigators then contact the NIDA Drug Supply Program to place an order for marijuana with specific THC concentrations. The program official verifies that the application is complete (with all the above-mentioned steps fulfilled), and forwards the order on to the contractor responsible for shipping the marijuana.

This page was last updated July 2014

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