In an interesting turn of events, The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has issued a ruling which will greatly increase the amount of marijuana that can be grown legally for research purposes. In the same report, the DEA announced that they will be attempting to reduce the production of problematic opioid pharmaceuticals.
The amount of marijuana that can be grown previously had been roughly 1,000 pounds, but will be increasing to 5,400 pounds in 2019.
According to the filing, these numbers are quotas that "reflects the total amount of controlled substances necessary to meet the country’s medical, scientific, research, industrial, and export needs for the year and for the establishment and maintenance of reserve stocks," DEA said.
Unfortunately, there are still many obstacles that need to be traversed before the scientific community actually has open access to these resources. There is only one farm in the whole United States that is authorized to produce cannabis for research purposes, and there are complaints from a large number of scientists that it is often difficult to receive samples from them. The farm is located at the University of Mississippi and has been operating by 1968.
Two dozen other facilities have reportedly filed proposals to become licensed manufacturers, but they have all been blocked by Jeff Sessions' Justice Department.
NORML Political Director Justin Strekal pointed out that there is currently a monopoly on scientific research of cannabis in the US.
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"While the drastic increase in requested production of marijuana by the DEA is a positive sign, significant barriers still exist including but not limited to the NIDA monopoly on cultivation and undue hurdles for researchers to qualify for a permit. It's time that Congress look at the 28,000 plus peer-reviewed studies currently hosted on the National Institute of Health's online database and reform federal law by removing marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act altogether," Strekal said.
While the DEA intends to increase supply for research purposes, marijuana is still federally listed as a schedule 1 drug, which means there is a large amount of 'red tape' preventing researchers from running clinical trials and conducting studies to evaluate the benefits and risks of cannabis.
In a press release, DEA Acting Administrator Uttam Dhillon seemed to recognize that cannabis could be a possible solution to the growing opiate overdose crisis.
“We’ve lost too many lives to the opioid epidemic and families and communities suffer tragic consequences every day. This significant drop in prescriptions by doctors and DEA’s production quota adjustment will continue to reduce the number of drugs available for illicit diversion and abuse while ensuring that patients will continue to have access to proper medicine,” Dhillon said.
In a recently published research study in a peer-reviewed journal, Melvin D. Livingston, Tracey E. Barnett, Chris Delcher, and Alexander C. Wagenaar, it was shown that rates of opiate deaths dropped significantly in states that where cannabis was legalized.
“Colorado’s legalization of recreational cannabis sales and use resulted in a 0.7 deaths per month…reduction in opioid-related deaths. This reduction represents a reversal of the upward trend in opioid-related deaths in Colorado,” the study reads.
With this news, some legalization advocates are hopefully predicting that this could signal a coming change in federal policy towards marijuana.