WASHINGTON, DC — The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) recommended on Wednesday that the government triples its cannabis production in 2015. In a notice published in the Federal Register, the DEA says more cannabis is needed because of “unanticipated medical, scientific, research, and industrial needs of the United States,”
This is the second year in a row that the DEA requested a big increase, reflecting rising interest in medical marijuana research. The request comes a week after the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) awarded $68.8 million to the University of Mississippi to increase cannabis production to at least 30,000 plants.
Research involving cannabidiol (CBD), a compound which has shown promise for medical applications without making users high, is “increasing beyond that previously anticipated for 2015,” according to the DEA. The NIDA, an arm of the National Institutes of Health, oversees the cultivation, production and distribution of research-grade cannabis for the U.S. government, offering more than 100 cannabinoid compounds to scientists. Multiple studies have suggested that medical marijuana combats aggressive cancer, slows the spread of HIV and stunts the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
Ole Miss has been running NIDA’s cannabis garden since 1968 and represents the only source of cannabis for researchers who want to conduct Food and Drug Administration-approved tests. In a posting for bids for the contract’s renewal, NIDA mandated a “secure and video monitored outdoor facility of approximately 12 acres” dedicated to the “cultivation, growing, harvesting, analyzing, and storing of research grade cannabis.”
Although, the federal government still classifies cannabis as among the most dangerous substances, with “no currently accepted medical use,” the DEA issues licenses to researchers and provides them with cannabis. The Federal Register notice is open to public comment for 30 days, after which the DEA will make its decision on the proposed production increase.
To date, 23 states have legalized medical marijuana while another 12 have legalized limited medical use of CBD-rich strains. Four states – Colorado, Washington D.C., Oregon and Alaska – have legalized recreational marijuana, and 19 states have decriminalized the possession of small amounts.