Cannabis Research FAQ

The questions below address issues frequently encountered by CSUDH faculty, staff, and students interested in conducting research and engaging in other activities involving marijuana and industrial hemp. It is not an exhaustive list of the issues surrounding these activities. At the bottom of this page, you can find links to additional guidance and contact information.

Federal law continues to prohibit most possession, distribution, and use of marijuana even as the legal landscape in this area develops rapidly. Individuals interested in participating in activities involving marijuana should consult further before initiating projects, or soliciting or accepting any support, to ensure compliance with all applicable federal laws and CSU policies.

1. Has CSU policy on research and other activities involving the cultivation, distribution, possession, or use of marijuana changed since the passage of Proposition 64?

NO. Federal law still classifies marijuana, including most parts of the marijuana plant (Cannabis sativa L.), as a Schedule I controlled substance. Most cultivation, distribution, possession, or use of marijuana remains illegal under federal law, and is therefore prohibited at CSUDH facilities, except under the circumstances explained in #2 below.

As a recipient of federal funding, CSUDH is obligated to comply with various laws including the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act and the Drug-Free Workplace Act that prohibit the manufacture, distribution, dispensing, possession, or use of any illicit controlled substance by the campus. These policies apply whether or not the activity is conducted on the CSUDH campus or property

2. Is any research involving the cultivation, distribution, possession, or use of marijuana allowable under federal law?

YES, under certain conditions. Research involving the possession and use of marijuana by researchers is allowable if the researcher has obtained a federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Schedule I registration and follows all applicable DEA regulations and guidelines (as well as applicable regulations of the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA)). The approval process may take as long as a year. DEA registration must be completed before research can begin. In addition, research involving human participants must be approved by the CSUDH Institutional Review Board (IRB) and research involving animals must be approved by the  CSUDH Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC). Any research project in California involving the administration/use of a Schedule I or Schedule II Controlled Substance by study participants must also be approved by the Research Advisory Panel of California (RAPC) in the California Attorney General’s Office.

Additional information about acquiring appropriate federal or state regulatory approvals for conducting research with a controlled substance, including DEA registration requirements, may be obtained from the Office of Graduate Studies and Research at

3. What about research focusing on marijuana extracts, including purified cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) derived from marijuana?

As defined in the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA), the term marijuana 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.” This definition does not include the mature stalks of such plant, fiber produced from such stalks, oil, or cake made from the seeds of such plant.

Given the CSA definition of marijuana, research or any other activity involving the direct use of marijuana extracts, such as CBD or purified THC, must be conducted under a DEA Schedule I registration. As such, the requirements described in #2 above must be met.

4. What about FDA-approved drugs that contain substances derived from marijuana?

The FDA-approved drugs Syndros and Marinol contain a synthetic form of THC and are regulated as Schedule II and III controlled substances, respectively. The FDA has also approved Epidiolex oral solution for the treatment of certain seizures associated with child epilepsy. This is the first FDA-approved drug that contains CBD, and has been classified as Schedule V. Any clinical testing of Epidiolex for conditions other than its single FDA-approved indication would require submission and approval of an Investigational New Drug request with the FDA.

In addition, despite the recent rescheduling of Epidiolex, CBD preparations other than Epidiolex remain classified as Schedule I controlled substances. Questions regarding these issues should be addressed to the CSUDH Research Compliance Officer

5. What state and federal requirements must be met before marijuana can be obtained for use in research?

Marijuana may be obtained only from a source 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. and distribution of these products is controlled by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

6. What about human research subjects and others participating in marijuana-related activities at CSUDH, who are allowed under California state law to obtain marijuana and its extracts for medical or recreational purposes?

Despite California law legalizing certain adult use of marijuana, most distribution, possession, and use continues to be illegal under federal law. Thus, these activities may still expose individuals to prosecution under federal law. It is permissible to include such individuals in research studies in which they are asked to report on the type of marijuana they are using and the subsequent effects they have experienced. However, they cannot be directed to use a specific source, type, and/or amount of marijuana by CSUDH faculty, students, or staff. Additionally, CSUDH faculty, students, and staff cannot aid or assist in the procurement of the marijuana or handle the substance. Further, marijuana and its extracts procured by individuals for medical or recreational use cannot be used or stored at any CSUDH facility.

7. Can research that does not involve the cultivation, distribution, possession, or direct use of marijuana be conducted?

YES. The following types of research and other activities are acceptable, although all normal approvals for research must be obtained, including those for the use of human and animal participants:

  1. Surveys of individuals already using marijuana for recreational or medical
  2. Environmental impact studies on the impact of marijuana cultivation on the
  3. Research on the socioeconomic effects of marijuana cultivation, sale, or
  4. Research on policy and legislative issues concerning
  5. Establishing websites or publishing newsletters through which results of the above- referenced research or other information on marijuana may be
  6. Conducting conferences, seminars, or informal meetings intended to provide objective information to CSUDH staff and the public on various marijuana-related

CSUDH may not undertake activities intended to directly contribute to or aid and abet the cultivation, distribution, or sale of marijuana in contravention of federal law, even if some of these activities may now be legal under California state law. Furthermore, in conducting these activities CSUDH faculty, students, and staff may not imply that CSUDH endorses any company/individual involved in the marijuana industry or that (without authorization from campus government relations officials) implies CSUDH endorses any specific legislative changes.

8. Do researchers need a Schedule I registration to conduct research with industrial hemp?

The 2018 Farm Bill removed industrial hemp from the federal Controlled Substances Act, making hemp and hemp derivatives no longer a Schedule I Controlled Substance. Therefore, a Schedule I DEA registration is not required for the conduct of research with hemp and hemp derivatives. Nevertheless, the 2018 Farm Bill still restricts the entities that may legally grow hemp. Because growing industrial hemp potentially puts the institution at risk, the campus will need to determine how and whether basic regulatory requirements can be met before submitting a proposal, seeking seeds or cultivars, or cultivating industrial hemp for research.

9. What about consulting to the marijuana industry as a private individual?

Outside activities related to marijuana must comply with standard CSU policies and procedures governing outside consulting. Some of these outside activities may be legal under California law but not federal law, and CSUDH faculty and staff would assume the same risks as any private citizen in California who chooses to engage in such activities. Because of CSU’s obligation to comply with federal law, no University resources may be used for outside activities with the cannabis industry (unless the activities are with entities that are operating in accordance with federal as well as state and local laws).

Additionally, anyone who engages in outside activities with the cannabis industry should make it clear that the work was performed as a private individual, not as a CSU employee, that no CSU resources, facilities, or funds were used, and that no CSU employees or students participated in their roles as a CSU employee or student.

10. Can CSUDH employees or students apply for funding support from the State of California and other states where some uses of marijuana have been legalized?

YES. California Proposition 64 contained provisions for allocating funds for research on the effects of the proposition’s implementation, as well as for research on the potential benefits and adverse effects of the use of marijuana for medical purposes. Other states, including Colorado, have implemented similar programs. Any research or other activity conducted by CSUDH under this type of funding, however, must be in full compliance with the federal and state laws and CSU policies cited above.

CSUDH researchers who are interested in submitting proposals to governmental sponsors for extramural funds to support cannabis-related research and other activities should confer with the Office of Sponsored Research and Programs at

11. Are there special considerations for gifts and fund-raising activities that may involve donations from the marijuana industry?

While California law allows certain commercial cannabis activities conducted in accordance with state regulations, the cultivation, sale, distribution, use, and marketing of marijuana is still prohibited under federal law. Therefore, accepting financial support from members of the marijuana industry creates risks for the University and raises potential concern over compliance with applicable money laundering laws. This applies to the solicitation of donations as well as to applications for financial support in the form of contracts or grants.

With regard to entities where only one or a few income streams out of several are directly related to activities illegal under federal law, or those entities which provide services or products supporting the marijuana industry but do not engage in illegal activities themselves, CSUDH faculty and staff should consult with General Counsel, Risk Management and University Advancement before any offers of support are formally solicited or accepted to ensure that any questions of legal or reputational risk can be resolved.

12. What about setting up on-line fundraising mechanisms to support cannabis research, cannabis-related educational activities, or any other cannabis-related campus projects or groups?

Setting up electronic donation links or using crowd-funding platforms has become a common approach for raising funds. Because of the risk involved in accepting gifts from individuals or businesses who derive their revenue from activities that are illegal under federal law, online fundraising is prohibited for CSUDH employees and students at this time.

13. What about in-kind donations?

Donations of marijuana plant materials or extracts or products made from marijuana (such as CBD oils) other than industrial hemp cannot be accepted for use in research or other activity at CSUDH. All other donations (cash and in-kind including real estate and company stock or stock options) must be evaluated by the CSUDH Research Compliance Officer before a determination can be made about whether they can be accepted.

14. Are there special considerations for contract and grant proposals?

As indicated in question 10 above, while California law allows certain commercial cannabis activities conducted in accordance with state regulations, the cultivation, sale, distribution, use, and marketing of marijuana is still prohibited under federal law. Accepting support from such individuals and entities also raises potential concern over compliance with applicable money laundering laws and creates risks for the University. This applies to the applications for research support in the form of contracts or grants. Research support from individuals or entities who are indirectly connected to the marijuana industry must be evaluated individually as there are considerations of potential risk and optics.

Investigators who contemplate submitting proposals for contract or grant funds from non-profit organizations must confer first with Office of Sponsored Research and Programs staff.

All other CSU and CSUDH requirements for submission of contract and grant proposals at CSUDH apply as well.

15. What about involving representatives of the marijuana industry in educational or extracurricular activities on campus?

Conferences or classes that provide information on cannabis research and that are held by members of the scientific community are appropriate. While courses such as crop cultivation in general (not focused on a particular crop) may have educational value, it is not appropriate for CSUDH to offer a course, sponsor lectures, or host conferences that focus on growing, distributing, or marketing marijuana. Because cultivation and sale of marijuana is still illegal under federal law, it is also not appropriate to have representatives of a marijuana business lead classes, sponsor student clubs or events, organize field trips, or to permit students to otherwise engage in commercial activities in the marijuana industry.

There are also concerns about CSUDH staff entering into relationships that do not involve financial or in-kind support (such as no-cost research or educational collaborations) with businesses or representatives of the marijuana industry that are engaged in activities which are illegal under federal law. CSUDH staff should only enter into such relationships as private individuals, unless the activity is reviewed and approved by the appropriate CSUDH office.

16. May alumni who are in the cannabis business come to campus to mentor students who are interested in looking for jobs and/or starting their own cannabis-related businesses?

It is not appropriate for alumni and other professionals who are engaged in activities that are not legal under federal or state law to meet with or mentor CSUDH students to discuss such illegal activities. Permitting such activities may expose the University to charges of knowingly and intentionally aiding or counseling someone who wants to engage in an activity that is illegal under federal law. For the same reason, the University should not promote any companies involved in activities that violate federal or state law.

Additional guidance and information:

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine: “The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research,” Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); January 12, 2017.

CSUDH Contact Information: