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Feds approve marijuana imports from Canada for medical research

By Ray Downs
Feds approve marijuana imports from Canada for medical research
Marijuana plants are seen at the 3D Cannabis Center in Denver on January 1, 2014. File Photo by Gary C. Caskey/UPI | License Photo

Sept. 19 (UPI) -- The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration this week approved the importation of marijuana from Canada for research at the University of California San Diego Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research.

Although legal in many states, marijuana is still illegal under federal law, which limits the number of U.S. companies that are able to provide certain types of strains for medical use. Tilray, the Canadian company that will export UC San Diego's medical marijuana, produces the drug in a capsule form and researchers will study its effects on Essential Tremor, a neurological that causes involuntary and rhythmic shaking.

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Dr. Fatta Nahab, a neurologist and director of the Functional Imaging of Neurodegenerative Disorders Lab at the UC San Diego Health's Movement Disorder Center, said the research will be a "first-of-its kind trial of purified medicinal cannabis for a common neurological disorder."

"Until now patients have been on their own to figure out the efficacy, safety, and dosing of cannabinoids. This trial should help answer many of these critical questions," Nahab said.

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While ET patients who currently use medical marijuana to treat their symptoms are figuring out their own doses, approved medications on the market have been known to be ineffective while producing disturbing side-effects.

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"Tilray is proud to support this crucial research," Dr. Catherine Jacobson, director of clinical research at Tilray, said in a statement. "If this study can identify cannabinoids as a potential treatment for patients suffering from essential tremor, we can conduct further research and potentially provide alternative effective methods of relief for the high numbers of patients with ET."

The DEA approval for the importation came just days after the U.S. House panel that oversees federal drug enforcement efforts approved a bill to require the Department of Justice to issue more licenses for medical marijuana research.

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Before then, all marijuana for medical research had to come from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, based at the University of Mississippi, which has a limited amount and strains of marijuana.

However, Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., criticized the move for not approving a U.S.-based company.

"Unbelievable...#DEA gives approval to import #cannabis compounds from Canada, while [Attorney General] Sessions is sitting on 2 dozen+ applications from domestic manufacturers. What happened to 'buy American, hire American'?" Gaetz tweeted Wednesday.

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It's not clear if any of those companies had the type of marijuana UC San Diego researchers need for their study. News of the deal sent Tilray stock 29 percent higher Tuesday.

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Over the past month, Tilray's stock has increased 400 percent.

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