Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The feds are looking to score 650 kilos of weed

A medical marijuana operation in Colorado. The Washington Post via Getty Images

The Drug Enforcement Administration this week massively boosted how much marijuana the federal government can grow for researchers in 2014.

The increase, from 21 kilograms to 650, will allow the University of Mississippi to grow substantially more research-bound marijuana under its exclusive contract with the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

A NIDA spokesperson explained in an email that the boost will accommodate researchers' increased demand for marijuana.

This is a big deal: it means the federal government is moving closer and closer to accepting marijuana for research and, potentially, medical purposes. It's worth noting, however, that substantial regulatory barriers remain, even though there is some evidence marijuana can treat some medical conditions better than conventional medicine.

The nonprofit Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), which has been pushing the federal government to loosen its restrictions on marijuana, was quick to point out that NIDA still holds a monopoly over marijuana for research. MAPS President Rick Doblin said his organization will continue working to end that monopoly.

Researchers often complain that, as a result of NIDA's monopoly, they've had to abide to extra regulatory hurdles to conduct medical marijuana research. The process can extend a study's approval by months or even years, on top of the Food and Drug Administration process that medical drug research typically goes through.

The monopoly also puts medical marijuana in a contradictory legal area: it's legal, at least in some states, for private growers to supply marijuana for medical consumption, but it's not possible for researchers to go to the same private growers to find out if the marijuana is safe for medical consumption in the first place.

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