The Drug Enforcement Administration will reportedly allow more universities to grow marijuana for medical research, which up until now has only been allowed at the University of Mississippi.
The DEA's change of heart was signaled by three unidentified government officials, The New York Times notes.
Marijuana research has been extremely limited because the University of Mississippi was the sole institution allowed to produce the plant.
While 25 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for medical and/or recreational uses, the plant is illegal on the federal level.
John Hudak, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, told The New York Times:
It will create a supply of research-grade marijuana that is diverse, but more importantly, it will be competitive and you will have growers motivated to meet the demand of researchers.
If you were a researcher who thought a product with high THC would help someone with a painful cancer, you were out of luck. You couldn’t access high THC marijuana in the same way you could buy it in a market in Colorado.
The new DEA policy will reportedly not have a limit on how many universities can grow marijuana to study, but colleges will have to follow a strict set of rules and security protocols.
University researchers would still have to gain approval from the DEA and the Food and Drug Administration. If research is funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, that organization's approval would also have to be met.
"It’s clear that this was a significant hurdle in limiting the quantity of clinical research taking place in the U.S.," Paul Armentano, the deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, added.
However, the DEA disappointed many on Aug. 11 when it refused to allow marijuana to be used for medical purposes because there is supposedly no scientific proof to support the drug’s therapeutic value, reports The Washington Post.
The DEA refused to remove marijuana from its Schedule I classification, where the plant will remain with other drugs such as heroin, despite calls from members of Congress and the National Conference of State Legislatures to move it off.
"Right now, the science doesn't support it," Chuck Rosenberg, acting administrator of the DEA, said.