Uncle Sam is growing more marijuana

The federal government is going to grow a whole lot more weed.

Call it supply and demand.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993. View Archive

The Drug Enforcement Administration has approved an increase in the government’s research marijuana quota from 21 kilograms to 650 kilograms this year. With 21 states and the District having legalized the drug for medicinal needs, 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, 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 many more grant requests have been approved, jumping from 22 federally funded marijuana and cannabis projects in 2003 to 69 in 2012, according to a March article by McClatchy.

A NIDA official said the agency has broadened its definition of marijuana research to include components of the marijuana plant, such as cannabinoids. It is funding “well over 100 grants” on cannabis, marijuana and cannabinoids.

Most of the studies 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 pro-legalization group Marijuana Majority said it makes sense that the debate about 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.”

Exit for an ex-envoy

President Obama’s ambassador to the Holy See from 2009 to November 2012, University of Dayton theology professor Miguel Diaz , is leaving the Roman Catholic institution after an investigation last year concluded it was likely that he sexually harassed a married couple who were his colleagues, according to a report Monday by the online news publication InsideHigherEd.com.

The article by reporter Ry Rivard , titled “Unwanted Advances,” said Diaz and his wife, also an academic, were expected to leave Dayton for Loyola University Chicago, a Jesuit institution. Internal university documents obtained by InsideHigherEd.com said the unidentified couple complained last June that Diaz was “harassing [them] through various requests and references to sexually explicit feelings.”

A letter from University of Dayton provost Joseph Saliba to the unidentified couple last July said the investigation by an outside counsel “concluded that there is reasonable cause to believe, based upon a preponderance of the evidence . . . that Dr. Diaz created a hostile environment by engaging in unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature, particularly after being told to stop.”

By way of remedies, the provost said in the letter that the university would fire Diaz unless he “avoided contact” with the couple, “whether in person, by phone or electronic (including texting) communications” and he was not to get involved “either directly or indirectly, in either of your employment, performance, service or other involvement” at the school “or elsewhere, whether negative or positive.”

If the university receives another verified complaint against Diaz like this one, Saliba wrote, “he will be terminated.”

Diaz, through his attorney, Gabriel Fuentes, declined comment Tuesday.

Tip: Don’t cross Walt

A womanizer, meth lord and politician walk into a room.

A fantastic setup for a sitcom? Unfortunately, no. But the actors who played legen — wait for it — dary characters Barney Stinson and Walter White have banded together with Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) on tax policy.

The A-list TV actors, now Broadway stage sensations — Bryan Cranston playing Lyndon B. Johnson (expertly, we’re told) and Neil Patrick Harris as a transgender woman — joined Schumer in Manhattan last month to throw their considerable star power behind an otherwise small slice of a pending tax-extenders package: tax deductions for financiers of plays and musicals.

“We’re here . . . to make sure Broadway and live theater get the same tax benefits as film does,” Schumer said at the event.

The new theater tax credit has passed through the requisite congressional committees as part of a larger tax-extenders bill that is expected to be center stage on the Senate floor next week. The Broadway League, the industry’s trade group, has spent $30,000 per quarter of late on “tax reform as it impacts Broadway investment,” according to lobbying disclosure forms.

Movie and television producers can expense as much as $15 million of costs when most of the production is done in the United States. Schumer and Co. want to extend that benefit to live theater in the name of entertainment parity. The theater world argues that such an incentive would encourage more financial backers to invest in Broadway shows — a risky endeavor, given that so many plays close when they can’t generate enough buzz.

One sure-fire way to ensure attention? Sign up some big-name stars. Works for Broadway — and Congress.

With Colby Itkowitz

The blog: washingtonpost.com/
intheloop. Twitter: @InTheLoopWP.

Colby Itkowitz is a national reporter for In The Loop.
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