On Monday, the Drug Enforcement Administration issued a new rule that increases the U.S. government’s production quota for medical marijuana from an annual 21 kg to 650 kg. That’s about 1,433 pounds of pot in total.
The U.S. government grows marijuana for research purposes at the University of Mississippi in the only federally legal marijuana garden in the U.S. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) oversees the cultivation, production and distribution of these crops.
“NIDA recently notified the DEA that it required additional supplies of marijuana to be manufactured in 2014 to provide for current and anticipated research efforts involving marijuana,” reads a recent Federal Register’s statement from the DEA.
The statement goes on to specify a production quota of 650,000 grams of pot for the current year.
The DEA decided to grant NIDA access to more marijuana “in order to provide a continuous and uninterrupted supply” of cannabis for research, according to the statement, which also says that the federal government was “unaware” of NIDA’s need for additional marijuana when the initial production quota of 21 kg was set in 2013.
Twenty-one states have legalized marijuana for medical use, and recreational marijuana is legal in Colorado and Washington, with sales in Colorado having already begun. About a dozen other states are considering legalizing marijuana in some form in the coming years.
Still, under federal law the plant remains illegal and classified as a Schedule I drug, meaning it’s considered one of “the most dangerous” substances “with no currently accepted medical use.”
The feds have long been accused of only funding marijuana research that focuses on the potential negative effects of the substance, but that trend appears to be changing.
According to The Hill, NIDA has conducted about 30 studies to date on the potential benefits of marijuana.
The most recent research effort was approved in March, when the Department of Health and Human Services signed off on a study assessing medical cannabis as a potential treatment for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. Researchers will provide the equivalent of two joints per day, cultivated from the federal government’s stash at Ole Miss, for 50 veterans.
The federal government’s interest in marijuana certainly appears to be growing. Since 2003, more than 500 grants for marijuana-related studies have received approval from the feds, with a marked upswing in recent years, according to McClatchy. Only 22 grants were approved in 2003 for cannabis research, totaling $6 million, but in 2012, 69 grants were approved for a total of over $30 million.