DEA decided to increase the production limit after receiving public comments from licensed drug manufacturers that the initially proposed quotas for marijuana and some other controlled substances “were insufficient to provide for the estimated medical, scientific, research, and industrial needs of the United States, export requirements, and the establishment and maintenance of reserve stocks.”
Marijuana for research purposes in the U.S. is only available via the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), which contracts with a University of Mississippi to grow, process, store and supply cannabis to scientists.
The new Federal Register notice, signed by Chuck Rosenberg, DEA’s acting administrator, says that the increased limits are in part a response to concerns that the research supply of controlled substances needs to have a sufficient reserve amount in case anything goes wrong.
“This would be concerning if a natural disaster or other unforeseen event resulted in substantial disruption to the amount of controlled substances available to provide for legitimate public need,” Rosenberg wrote. “As such, the DEA has included in all established schedule II aggregate production quotas, and certain schedule I aggregate production quotas, an additional 25% of the estimated medical, scientific, and research needs as part of the amount necessary to ensure the establishment and maintenance of reserve stocks.”
DEA has made somewhat of a habit of continually upping its marijuana quota amounts. For 2015, for example, it initially proposed a limit of 125,000 grams. The agency then increased the projection to 400,000 grams before finally settling on a target of 658,000 grams for the year. That’s the same amount DEA now says it wants the feds to grow next year as well.
In 2014, the agency oversaw a huge increase from an initial proposed amount of 21,000 grams to a total 650,000 grams.
Marijuana law reform advocates have pushed to end NIDA’s supply monopoly and to allow for other legal sources of cannabis for research. Scientists have complained that it is difficult to obtain cannabis from the agency and that even when their applications are granted, the marijuana is of poor quality.
NIDA itself doesn’t want the monopoly, which has been forced onto it by DEA’s refusal to grant additional licenses for marijuana production.
Current NIDA Director Nora Volkow testified to the Senate in June that “it would be beneficial” for the federal government to authorize additional producers, calling the monopoly “not something that NIDA chose” for itself.
“If there were alternative sources of [marijuana]would I support it, and the answer is yes,” she said. “It would make the research much more efficient.”
Concurring, the Food and Drug Administration’s Douglas Throckmorton testified that there would be “advantages to broad availability of a variety of different kinds of marijuana… Expanding the numbers of growers is one potential solution.”
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