With demand for research marijuana high, federal government agrees to grow more


A young cannabis plant grows at The Joint Cooperative in Seattle.  (Cliff DesPeaux/ Reuters)

The federal government is going to grow a whole lot more weed. It’s simple supply and demand.

The Drug Enforcement Administration has approved an increase in the government’s research marijuana quota from 21 kilograms to 650 kilograms this year. With close to half the nation legalizing the drug for medicinal need, and two states allowing it for recreational use, the demand for research has mushroomed.

“The aggregate production quota for marijuana should be increased in order to provide a continuous and uninterrupted supply of marijuana in support of DEA-registered researchers who are approved by the Federal Government to utilize marijuana in their research protocols,” according to a Federal Register report published Monday.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) oversees the federal government’s pot supply, grown since 1968 at the only legal farm located on the University of Mississippi campus. The agency has faced criticism for funding projects that examine the drug’s risks, rather than its benefits. But interests are shifting, and a lot more grant requests have been approved, jumping from 22 federally funded marijuana projects in 2003 to 69 in 2012, according to a March 2014 article by McClatchy.

UPDATE: A NIDA official said the agency has broadened its definition of marijuana research to include components of the marijuana plant, such as cannabinoids. Currently its funding “well over 100 grants” for marijuana studies. Most of them still focus on the negative impacts of the drug, but as of this year NIDA has funded some 30 studies related to the “therapeutic uses of marijuana.”

“It’s important that researchers have the tools available to study the impact of these changing laws,” Dan Riffle of the
Marijuana Policy Project, said in an e-mail. “For too long NIDA and the DEA have obstructed this vital research, and I applaud both agencies for this change of course.”

Tom Angell, of the Marijuana Majority, said it makes sense the current debate around marijuana would extend to academia.

“I’m not surprised the DEA would underestimate the demand since they constantly pretend medical marijuana doesn’t exist,” Angell told the Loop. “This is now a mainstream issue. A lot more people are interested.”

It’s Reefer Madness!

Colby Itkowitz is a national reporter for In The Loop.
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