‘The system is swamped.’ Canada can't keep up with requests to study cannabis

Science | AAAS | 8/19/2019 | Staff
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biology and therapeutic possibilities of cannabis. The delays are also prompting criticism of Health Canada, the agency charged with issuing the permits.

“Everybody is growing, consuming, and buying it, but the labs are still: ‘How do we get these projects going?’” says Jonathan Page, chief science officer for Aurora Cannabis in Edmonton, one of Canada’s licensed producers of the psychoactive plant. “The [licensing] system is swamped, and research is not exactly, I think, a priority.”

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Health Canada says it is committed to the research and is trying to speed the process. But for now, “It’s incredibly slow—much slower than it used to be,” adds Igor Kovalchuk, a plant geneticist at the University of Lethbridge, who began to study cannabis under regulations governing it as a narcotic, before it was legalized for recreational use in Canada. “October 17, 2018, is when things slowed down tremendously.”

That date marked the enactment of the Cannabis Act, which made Canada the second nation, after Uruguay, to legalize recreational marijuana. Some Canadian researchers previously studied cannabis under stringent restrictions, but the act’s accompanying regulations gave the scientific community more freedom to grow the plant, ship it, tweak its chemical and physical properties, and administer it to research subjects—provided an investigator wins a license.

October - Stroke - Health - Canada - Task

In October 2018, at a stroke, Health Canada was confronted with a massive task: processing scores of new research license applications, not to mention hundreds of others from would-be growers, processors, and others not involved with research. Although cannabis is now legal for recreational purposes, it is not available without constraints: Regulations implementing the Cannabis Act dictate a strict system controlling its production, distribution, and sale—and its use in research labs. New research applicants must document the quantities of cannabis they plan...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Science | AAAS
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