In order to study cannabis and its effects on humans, scientists must source it from the National Center for Natural Products Research at the University of Mississippi in Oxford.
And that comes with a big downside: it’s super weak compared to the stuff you can get on the street, according to Nature. And that’s a problem, because it might put U.S. cannabis research results out of whack.
Anna Schwabe, a plant geneticist at the University of Northern Colorado, found that the DNA of the stuff U.S. researchers are using looked way more like hemp than what we’d normally call a “drug.” Samples from research marijuana also showed lower levels of both tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — the stuff that makes cannabis psychoactive — and cannabidiol (CBD) compared to what one normally finds on the street.
“I personally don’t think they’re providing something that’s similar to what any patient could get their hands on,” Schwabe told Nature. The crop “doesn’t look like marijuana, it doesn’t smell like marijuana.”
A preprint of Schwabe’s research was published last month in the preprint archive bioRxiv.
The Drug Enforcement Administration has yet to approve any institutions — despite hundreds of unanswered applications, according to Nature — to grow marijuana for research other than the University of Mississippi, after announcing in 2016 it was going to allow other institutions to do so.
Other researchers in the field still want to study other genetic markers before saying conclusively that the University of Mississippi’s hookup isn’t good enough for scientific research.
But they do agree on one thing: cannabis research would get a whole lot more accurate by giving permission to other institutions to grow their own.
READ MORE: Cannabis used in US research differs genetically to the varieties people smoke [Nature]
More on cannabis research: Study: THC Has More Therapeutic Benefits Than We Thought