Cannabis and Hemp Research at CSU

Cannabis/Hemp Researcher Database

Frequently Asked Questions & Guidelines

Within the Controlled Substances Act, there is no current legal delineation between marijuana and hemp – it all falls within the act’s definition of Cannabis sativa. The Controlled Substances Act criminalizes the possession, growing and use of Cannabis sativa without registration with the Drug Enforcement Administration for a schedule 1 controlled substance. It is also a federal crime for any individual to assist others to violate federal law. This means that if a CSU employee provides advice, which promotes in some way a violation of law, that itself can constitute a violation of law.

That said, the 2014 USDA Farm Bill did contain language providing for cultivation for research purposes of industrial hemp by universities in states that allow cultivation. Colorado has legislation permitting the research and commercial growth of industrial hemp, but requires written registration with the Colorado Department of Agriculture by anyone who is going to cultivate hemp. This registration requirement includes growing hemp for research purposes, and CSU has submitted its required research application, and received approval for open field and indoor (such as growth chambers, greenhouses) cultivation in locations specifically identified within the application.   

The purpose of this document is to provide guidance and direction to CSU administrators, researchers, and employees, as well as communication to the greater (public) community by providing FAQs. Questions about this topic can be directed to Linda Schutjer, Senior Legal Counsel, (970) 491‐6270

Hemp Research

  1. Will CSU researchers be performing hemp research in the near future?

    Yes, CSU anticipates industry‐sponsored research related to industrial hemp cultivations studies.

  2. What is industrial hemp?

    Industrial hemp is defined by the state of Colorado and the Farm Bill as the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of such plant with an average delta‐9 tetrahydrocannabinol ‐‐ or THC ‐ concentration of  0.3 percent or less, on a dry weight basis.

  3. Does the Drug Enforcement Agency address hemp any differently than marijuana?

    The DEA’s position continues to evolve. The DEA has suggested that hemp and its component parts are subject to controls as a schedule one drug. However, legal experts agree that this position is inconsistent with the Farm Bill and prior law. Additionally, Congress has passed legislation “defunding” enforcement efforts by the DEA and other agencies against individuals growing hemp in compliance with state law.

  4. Who can perform research on industrial hemp?

    Universities and state departments of agriculture in states that have laws in place allowing such research. The DEA has also agreed that private farmers who are operating with the approval of their states, can grow hemp.

  5. What hemp‐based research can be performed at CSU?

    At this time, there are no limits on hemp research at CSU so long as the material being used has a THC concentration of no more than 0.3 percent.

  6. Can CSU researchers or extension agents provide advice and assistance to non‐university hemp growers inside and external to the state of Colorado?

    CSU researchers and extension agents may provide advice to Colorado farmers cultivating hemp who are registered under the Colorado Department of Agriculture registration program; however, CSU researchers and extension agents may NOT assist cultivators of marijuana, or any entity or individual growing hemp outside of that registration program.

  7. Can CSU researchers perform research in a paid or unpaid sabbatical situation in a foreign country whose laws permit industrial hemp research in any capacity?


  8. Can CSU researchers use non‐CSU subcontractors to grow hemp for research purposes?

    Yes, as long as they are properly registered with the Colorado Department of Agriculture.

  9. Can CSU researchers obtain hemp products from third parties for research or analytical service purposes?

    Yes, provided the third party is properly registered with the Colorado Department of Agriculture.

  10. Can a CSU grower obtain viable hemp seed from any source?

    In most cases, viable hemp seed should be obtained from the Colorado Department of Agriculture under its import license with the DEA. If you wish to obtain seed from or provide seed to a colleague at an institution outside of Colorado, please contact CSU’s Office of General Counsel to discuss this first as guidance in this arena is changing.

  11. Can CSU researchers perform market studies or literature searches about hemp under an externally funded sponsored project?


  12. Can CSU researchers perform hemp research funded by industry?

    Yes, provided that the funding does not come from an entity or individual involved in the marijuana industry.

  13. Can CSU license intellectual property rights resulting from hemp research?


Marijuana Research

  1. Can CSU researchers perform marijuana research?

    Yes, but such research must be performed only after obtaining  a DEA schedule 1 registration of a controlled substance.

  2. Can CSU researchers provide marijuana samples, extracts, derivatives, or DNA materials to other labs at CSU or entities external to the university?

    No, unless such transfer occurs to another schedule 1 holder, and is otherwise permissible under state and federal rules.

  3. How can a CSU researcher apply for schedule 1 registration?

    Individual PIs may register with the DEA for a schedule 1 controlled substance by following the CSU procedures established through Environmental Health Services found online at (see Chris Giglio for assistance).

  4. How long does it take to obtain DEA approval for a schedule 1 controlled substance?

    According to reports from CU and other institutions, the approval process is a lengthy process, sometimes requiring six to 12 months in total. CSU researchers interested in perform marijuana research should apply as soon as possible for a schedule 1 due to this time delay in approval. Grants awarded for marijuana research will be declined if the schedule 1 is not in place at time of award.

  5. Can CSU researchers perform research related to marijuana that does not require the handling of marijuana material?

    Yes, research or analysis on data, including economic analyses, human and animal clinical trials, and literature searches are allowable without a schedule 1 where marijuana does not come into the possession of the researcher.

  6. Can a CSU researcher who maintains a DEA schedule 1 permit handle hemp materials falling under the Final Rule or the Farm Bill in the same facility?

    Yes, provided that all schedule 1 rules and protocols are followed for those materials handled in such lab categorized as a schedule 1 controlled substance.

  7. Does CSU accept gifts from those in the marijuana industry?

    No, CSU cannot accept funds from the marijuana industry.


Work with cannabinoids, CBD’s, is permitted pursuant to the Farm Bill. The Drug Enforcement Agency, DEA, has taken the position that so long as CBD’s are derived from industrial hemp, it is within the Farm Bill coverage.

INDUSTRIAL HEMP.—The term ‘industrial hemp’ means the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of such plant, whether growing or not, with a delta‐9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.

In December of 2016, the DEA issued a new Administration Controlled Substances Code number for marihuana extract which initially caused some concern:

(58) Marihuana Extract – 7350 Meaning an extract containing one or more cannabinoids that has been derived from any plant of the genus Cannabis, other than the separated resin (whether crude or purified) obtained from the plant.

Some commentators believed this language “scheduled” CBD’s as covered by Schedule 1 limitations even if such materials were derived from industrial hemp. The DEA advised that they did not intend this language to be read as in any way covering materials that are permitted under the Farm Bill, including CBD derived from industrial hemp. They said the stated purpose of this rule, was to allow DEA schedule 1 holders who work with both to track these materials separately from the marijuana itself. After a legal challenge to this action by the DEA, the court accepted the DEA’s argument that this was not a substantive change – merely administrative. Based on that, it is now clear that CBD’s derived from industrial hemp are able to be worked with.

It is interesting to note that under the Federal law definition of “marihuana,” portions of even the high tetrahydrocannabinol, THC, plant are not considered “marihuana.”

(16) The term “marihuana” means all parts of the plant Cannabis sativa L., whether growing or not; the seeds thereof; the resin extracted from any part of such plant; and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of such plant, its seeds or resin. Such term does not include the mature stalks of such plant, fiber produced from such stalks, oil or cake made from the seeds of such plant, any other compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of such mature stalks (except the resin extracted therefrom), fiber, oil, or cake, or the sterilized seed of such plant which is incapable of germination.

This means that CBD’s derived from the mature stalks, provided that they are not resin, or CBD’s derived from sterilized seeds can be freely created and used.

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