ILLINOIS, USA — Recreational marijuana has generated millions in tax revenue in Illinois and Missouri, but federal law still classifies cannabis as a Schedule I narcotic on par with heroin, fentanyl and methamphetamine.
At the SIU Cannabis Science Center, students are studying what could be the area's next cash crop.
"Southern Illinois has the right growing environment for it,” said Dr. Gary Kinsel. “I think it could be a good rotation crop. It has great potential as an economic driver for the region."
Kinsel has spent the past three years studying the chemical makeup of hemp cannabis plants.
"There are quite literally dozens of bioactive compounds in the Hemp Cannabis plant,” said Kinsel.
His team has to study hemp despite the fact that marijuana is now a legal money maker on both sides of the bi-state.
"By federal law, we cannot perform research on cannabis,” he said. “Hemp is legal. Hemp you can grow right now. The problem is this artificial barrier when hemp becomes cannabis."
Marijuana is still classified as a Schedule I narcotic, which makes it illegal for any facilities that receive federal funding to research without a DEA-controlled substance license.
"Right now, in the state of Illinois, it's not possible for a university to get a controlled substance license for research on cannabis,” he said.
Kinsel said that reclassifying cannabis as a Schedule III narcotic could reduce the tax burden on the cannabis business between 30-70% and improve quality control for consumers.
"There's a lot of questions with respects from the various products you get from these cannabis stores,” said Kinsel. “Are they really what they say they are? Are they being monitored by the FDA? These kinds of questions are important. Right now, because of that federal inconsistency, they're not being addressed very well."
The decision to reschedule cannabis to Schedule III now rests with the attorney general and the DEA.
"It would be nice if we had a consistent federal outlook on cannabis,” he said.
The SIU Cannabis Research Center is hosting a daylong cannabis symposium Saturday, Sept. 9, click here for more information.