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UPDATE 1-U.S. drug authorities set new rules to expand marijuana research

Andy Sullivan

(Adds background, detail)

WASHINGTON, Aug 26 (Reuters) - The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration said on Monday that it will set new guidelines to expand marijuana research and potentially lead to products that could be sold nationwide.

The new guidelines will make it easier to register more qualified growers and increase the variety of marijuana products available for medical and scientific research, the agency said.

That should lead to greater understanding about the effects of marijuana and "potentially aid in the development of safe and effective drug products that may be approved for marketing by the Food and Drug Administration," DEA said in a regulatory filing.

The DEA also said producers of hemp, an industrial form of marijuana that has little psychoactive effect, will no longer have to register with the U.S. government.

Though marijuana is legal for recreational or medical use in 33 states and the District of Columbia, it remains illegal under federal law, and researchers must secure a federal permit if they want to work with the drug.

As the legal market has expanded, DEA says it has faced a growing number of permit applications. (Reporting by Andy Sullivan Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Marguerita Choy)

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