Guidance on Hemp and Cannabis Research and Funding

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Guidance on Industrial Hemp and Cannabis Research and Funding

This guidance is intended to provide information to Southern Illinois University (SIU) researchers, research administrators, faculty, staff and students regarding the legal and policy issues related to research and funding involving industrial hemp and cannabis. Failure to comply with federal regulations could put federal funding at risk.

The term "hemp" means the plant species Cannabis sativa L. and any part of that plant, including the seeds thereof and all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts, and salts of isomers, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration (THC) of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis. 

Important things to consider:

  • Industrial hemp can only be grown in licensed plots. Investigators are responsible for ensuring planting, harvesting, and disposal reports are correctly filed with the appropriate state or federal office(s). Hemp grown for research purposes must be disposed of at the conclusion of the research period. Contact the Office of Research Compliance for additional information. 
  • While many states are legalizing the use of cannabis for medical or recreational purposes, cannabis is still illegal under federal law.
  • Universities (like SIU) receiving federal funds are obligated to comply with the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act and the Drug-Free Workplace Act.
  • Federal laws require SIU to implement policies that prohibit the unlawful manufacture, distribution, dispensing, possession, or use of any controlled substances at SIU.

Federal and State Regulations 

Research That Does Not Involve the Possession and Use of Cannabis

The following types of research and other activities are acceptable (as long as the funding is not from a prohibited source), with normal approvals for research:

  • Surveys of individuals already using cannabis for recreational or medical purposes.
  • Environmental impact studies on the impact of cannabis cultivation on the environment.
  • Research on the socioeconomic effects of cannabis cultivation, sale, or use.
  • Research on policy and legislative issues concerning cannabis.
  • Establishing websites or publishing newsletters through which results of the above referenced research or other information on cannabis may be disseminated.
  • Conducting conferences, seminars, or informal meetings intended to provide objective information to SIU staff and the public on various cannabis-related issues.

Risks in Accepting Funding from the Cannabis Industry

The cannabis industry includes cultivators, manufacturers, distributors, and retailers. It can also include trade association groups and those organizations that provide ancillary products and services to support federally illegal cannabis-related activities (e.g., lighting or hydroponic equipment companies whose main clientele is the marijuana industry).

There are concerns about accepting funding from or conducting transactions with members of this industry, either directly or indirectly. Possible legal risks of accepting funding from cannabis entities include:

• Federal criminal charges of money laundering or aiding and abetting and violations of the Controlled Substances Act;

• Risk of federal forfeiture (i.e., funds that are determined to be the proceeds of criminal activities, which could apply if funds donated to a university were derived from the donor's sale or distribution of cannabis, and can be seized by the federal government);

• Allegations that the university has violated the Drug Free Schools Act and/or the Drug Free Workplace Act, which could put its federal funding at risk;

• Reputational risks of working with an individuals or entities engaged in illegal activities.

Due to the risks involved, SIU campuses may not accept donations, grants or other funding from entities or individuals known to directly derive most or all of their funding from conducting cannabis-related activities that are illegal under federal law (e.g., sale, cultivation, distribution).

This includes grants that are earmarked specifically for the study of the impact of cannabis directly from companies that distribute or manufacture cannabis products or foundations that are created by such companies.

Cannabis Research

Research involving the possession and use of cannabis in humans and animals is allowable if the researcher has obtained a Schedule I registration with the DEA and approval for their research protocol through scientific review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Investigational New Drug process.

  • Must obtain DEA Schedule I registration for research project
  • Must obtain cannabis from National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), procured at University of Mississippi (or other sources approved by the DEA). At present, only the University of Mississippi is authorized to produce marijuana plant-based products for use by researchers in the U.S.
  • Must obtain approval from the FDA for clinical and non-clinical research
  • Must obtain other standard research approvals from the appropriate institutional review board(s) (IRBs) and Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee(s) (IACUCs) if research involves humans or animals.
  • Cannot accept research funding from individuals or entities that directly obtain most of their revenue from the cannabis industry in violation of federal law.
  • May conduct cannabis research that does not involve the direct use, possession, distribution, or  cultivation of cannabis (e.g. surveying individuals who use cannabis, analyzing public records, and data)