Canadian Marijuana Company Allowed to Legally Export Medicinal Cannabis to the U.S.

A Canadian marijuana company has been granted permission by the U.S. federal government to export medicinal cannabis to California for scientific research.

The company, Tilray Inc., and Dr. Fatta Nahab, an associate professor of neurosciences at the University of California San Diego's medical school, who is behind the research, believe it is the first time that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has given the green light to a Canadian producer to export a cannabis study drug south of the border, The Toronto Star reported. Getting approval was a months-long process that also required the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to agree.

"It's quite significant," Dr. Catherine Jacobson, Tilray's director of clinical research told the Canadian newspaper. "This is the first time a Canadian (licensed producer) has demonstrated to the FDA that a study drug produced in Canada from the cannabis plant can meet its standards."

Tilray Receives Approval from the DEA to Import Medical Cannabis into the United States for Essential Tremor Clinical Trial @UCSDHealth:

— Tilray (@tilray) September 18, 2018

Tilray's shares rose as much as 28 percent with reports of the news, Bloomberg reported. The significant gains pushed the British Columbia-based company's valuation up significantly, adding about $3 billion and bringing the overall value to more than $14 billion. The boost pushed it above fellow Canadian marijuana company Canopy Growth Corp, meaning that Tilray is now the world's most valuable cannabis company.

U.S.-based researchers who wanted to study marijuana have previously relied on supplies from the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA). However, this would generally come as a dried bud, Nahab explained to Canadian media. This made it difficult to control the dosage without an oral alternative from NIDA.

"We've got a set dosing, fixed, highly consistent, and so it's really going to help us advance the field much more,'' Nahab said of the Tilray product, which is a capsule containing a cannabinoid formulation with the active ingredients cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), according to CBC. Nahab's team had selected the Canadian company from a shortlist of four.

An employee inspects medicinal marijuana buds at Tweed INC., in Smith Falls, Ontario on December 5, 2016. LARS HAGBERG/AFP/Getty Images

The researcher and his team will use the cannabis in a study on essential tremor, which is a common neurological disorder that causes an individual's body to shake. The research was partially funded by Tilray as well as the International Essential Tremor Foundation. Clinical trials should commence in 2019, involving 16 adult participants.

Recreational marijuana has been legalized in nine U.S. states and the nation's capital, and medicinal cannabis has been legalized in more than 30. Nonetheless, the federal government still classifies pot as a schedule 1 drug, making it completely illegal.

Canada decided in June to legalize recreational marijuana nationwide, which will come into effect next month. But U.S. officials have warned that Canadian marijuana users, workers and investors could face lifetime bans from the U.S. due to current federal law. Previously, cannabis investors from other countries, such as Israel, have been barred from entering the U.S.