Marijuana Research

The University of Mississippi
  • Marijuana field at the University of Mississippi
    Marijuana grown at the University of Mississippi
    Marijuana grown at the University of Mississippi
    Marijuana plants at the University of Mississippi
  • Frequently Asked Questions

    What research on marijuana does the University of Mississippi (UM) conduct?


    UM’s research interests include studies of the botanical, pharmacological and chemical properties of the cannabis plant. In addition to supporting the research community through UM’s participation in the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Drug Supply Program, UM collaborates with industry partners in support of the development and commercialization of FDA-approved drug products derived from cannabis. UM’s expertise in drug delivery is used to develop optimized formulations for evaluation in animal models and human clinical trials.

    Does marijuana have medical benefits?


    Dronabinol, the active ingredient in FDA approved Marinol® capsules and generic equivalents, is synthetic delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is a naturally occurring compound in cannabis. Dronabinol is approved as a prescription drug product in many countries for the treatment of anorexia associated with weight loss in patients with AIDS, as well as for nausea and vomiting associated with cancer chemotherapy in patients who have failed to respond adequately to conventional antiemetic treatments. Sativex®, a standardized cannabis extract containing THC and cannabidiol (CBD), is approved as a pharmaceutical product for the treatment of MS Spasticity in over 25 countries, but not the U.S. Epidiolex®, an oral solution containing cannabidiol (CBD), is in late stage clinical development for the treatment of certain seizure disorders. More information here.

    The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) announced in August 2016 that marijuana will remain a Schedule I drug which means that it has no currently accepted medical use in the United States, it lacks an accepted safety use under medical supervision and it has a high potential for abuse. This decision was based, in part, on the conclusion by the Department of Health and Human Services that marijuana has no “currently accepted medical use” and there are “no adequate and well-controlled studies proving efficacy.”

    Additional clinical research is needed to better understand the safety and efficacy of marijuana, especially in the smoked form. For a complete listing of all projects funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) examining the potential therapeutic benefits of cannabinoids, see the Therapeutic Cannabinoid Research category in the NIH RePORT database.

    Is the University of Mississippi the only legal marijuana grower in the U.S.?


    Under the 1961 international Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs and the 1970 Controlled Substances Act (CSA), the federal government is the single “agent” allowed to provide marijuana for research. As of now, the DEA has only authorized one grower, the University of Mississippi, which grows marijuana under contract with the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). As part of this contract, UM holds a DEA Schedule-I Bulk Manufacturer registration to cultivate plants for this purpose. However, in 2016 DEA announced a new interpretation of the Single Convention to allow other growers to cultivate marijuana to supply researchers. As of July 2017, UM is unaware of any growers who have been approved under this new program.

    How does a grower apply for a DEA registration?


    Complete a DEA Form 225 to apply as a Schedule-I Bulk Manufacturer of marijuana (drug code 7360).

    How much marijuana does the facility grow?


    UM grows various amounts of different varieties of cannabis to meet the anticipated needs of researchers under the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) contract. A typical outdoor growing season yields over 500kg of plant material, while an indoor season yields about 10kg.

    Why does marijuana grown at the facility look different from marijuana in dispensaries?


    Marijuana produced at UM is manicured to a uniform particle size because it is required to be standardized in various research protocols.

    How can researchers request other forms of marijuana?


    Researchers should send requests to the project officers of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Drug Supply Program: Robert Walsh, (301) 443-9825, or Rik Kline, (301) 827-5243.

    What is CBD oil?


    For the purpose of the University of Mississippi’s R&D program, “CBD oil” is referred to as “CBD extract oral solution.” It is prepared from the plant extract, which is formulated for pharmaceutical use, and is suitable for oral administration.  The current product version contains 50 mg/ml CBD and not more than 2.5 mg/ml of THC. 

    UM’s CBD oil product is prepared from a concentrated extract of Cannabis [CBD-enriched Cannabis extract] with a high ratio of CBD to THC.  

    Note that the term “CBD oil” is used fairly indiscriminately by marketers and users, and may refer either to concentrated oily residues of the plant, or to many derived products with different oils added. These products may vary highly in CBD content, quality, purity and in the content of other cannabinoids.

    Is your marijuana free of microbial and heavy metal contamination?


    UM performs quality control testing to ensure that the products meet quality standards for botanical products. Certain bacteria, such as E. coli and Salmonella, cannot be tolerated in products intended for human ingestion. The natural flora of yeasts and molds that occur on plants of every species also occur on marijuana plants. The level of yeast and mold expected in normal flora are of little concern, but higher levels, such as visible mold, are not allowed. As cannabis plants grow, any heavy metals in the surrounding soil will be concentrated in the tissues of the plants. Although the risk of metal contamination in plants grown under controlled conditions is very low, UM tests representative samples for heavy metal contamination.

    Since many states now have laws to allow medical marijuana, is the UM program still necessary?


    Yes. Purchasing or possessing marijuana products available in state dispensaries remains illegal at the federal level, although a number of states are working to facilitate research on the therapeutic benefits of marijuana and its constituent cannabinoids, and some have allocated funding from tax revenue for research. UM’s program is the only federally legal marijuana growing operation, and it provides materials for research that meet the legal and safety requirements of both DEA and FDA. Marijuana intended for scientific research must be standardized and meet certain quality requirements, which UM can guarantee based on its growing processes and adherence to the FDA’s Good Manufacturing Processes. Because institutions that participate in state-sanctioned medical marijuana programs are at risk of federal intervention, they may not qualify for federal research funding.

    Can UM analyze an external researcher's marijuana samples?


    Yes, but only if the researcher maintains a DEA Schedule-I registration that allows transfer of materials between registrants.

    How does FDA regulate products containing cannabis and/or cannabis-derived ingredients?