A chink in the armor appears to be cracking the federal government’s stubborn resistance to legalized weed with the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) recent announcement that it wants to increase the production of legally grown marijuana by more than five-fold next year.
While the DEA may not be gung-ho about pot, it nevertheless advocates a huge increase in marijuana production for research purposes next year and is planning to file a new Federal Register soon to increase legal weed production from 1,000 pounds this year, to in excess of 5,400 pounds in 2019.
The Sessions dance
But, as usual, Jeff Sessions appears to be tip-toeing through the tulips. The U.S. Attorney General, well-known for his anti-marijuana stance, can only be described as evasive when it comes to changing the status-quo of the monopoly held on a marijuana farm that the University of Mississippi has controlled since 1968.
Last month eight senators signed a letter pressing Sessions for a decision to open legal marijuana farms elsewhere and in competition to the University of Mississippi monopoly. It is no wonder that they are showing signs of frustration because his last comment on the matter was made in April when he told congressmen that a decision would be made “soon.” Soon, it would seem, is a matter of interpretation when it comes to the Attorney General and any concession to the marijuana industry at the federal level.
DEA calls for an end to the monopoly
Scientists have been complaining for some time now about the difficulty to obtain approval for marijuana from the university-controlled farm. They have also voiced discontent about the poor quality of the marijuana on occasion.
In all fairness to the DEA, the anti-drug agency has been trying to put an end to the monopoly since the last few months of the Obama administration. It wants to introduce a system for the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) to license more marijuana cultivators. The DEA’s efforts have attracted proposals from more than two dozen facilities who are seeking licenses to grow marijuana legally for research purposes but the DEA has been blocked from taking any action on the applicationsby Sessions’ Justice Department.
According to lawmakers, researchers and the medical world should be able to access quality marijuana to find answers to questions about the efficacy and any potential impacts, good or bad, which currently surrounds the subject of marijuana. They believe that finalizing the applications from marijuana cultivators who have already expressed an interest in obtaining licenses willsolve the existing problem.
Opioid action to ease drug epidemic
While the debate about America’s burgeoning pot market will undoubtedly continue ad-nauseam, the other side of the coin is the country’s ongoing opioid epidemic, a problem that the DEA has not overlooked. It is now fighting to reduce the country’s opioid production on specified drugs that include fentanyl, hydrocodone, morphine and oxycodone.
The U.S. has lost too many lives to the prescription drug epidemic, according to the DEA’s Acting Administrator,Uttam Dhillon. In a press statement, Dhillon says that adjustments to production quotas, together with a decrease in the number of prescriptions written by doctors, will go a long way to decrease the availability of drugs for illicit use and abuse. He, however, assured that patients would continue to have proper access to medications.
Sessions has come out in full support of this move by the DEA, describing opioid use as “the worst drug crisis in American history”, and adding that a 10 percent cut next year in the production quotas of opioids would make it more difficult to obtain drugs for abuse.
The DEA says that the proposed quotas for cannabis and other drugs in 2019 is a reflection of the total amount of controlled substances needed to meet the country’s overall maintenance and reserve stock levels. This includes marijuana for medical, scientific, research, industrial, and export purposes.
The DEA has earmarked marijuana production next year at 2,450,000, a significant leap from the 443,680 grams the agency authorized in 2018. The anti-drug agency is also proposing to license the production of 384,460 grams of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the high-making compound present in marijuana.
These significant increases in weed production quotas could indicate that the DEA expects approval at some stage for more grower licenses. On the other hand, it could merely be an indication that reserve stocks are running low at the Mississippi farm.
No matter which way you cut it, the time has apparently come for the federal government’s cannabis stash to be increased to meet increasing demands for research into the medical benefits of marijuana.
But while the DEA’s move to increase marijuana production has been described as positive by NORML Political Director, Justin Strekal, he says significant barriers still stand in the way ofcultivation and for researchers to obtain permits to obtain marijuana for study purposes. Strekal says the time has come for Congress to examine the 28,000-plus studies on the National Institute of Health’s online database and to introduce reforms to federal laws by removing marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act.
The public will be given a 30-day window in which to participate in the DEA’sincreased quota proposal once its notice officially appears in the Federal Register, after which amendments to finalize the proposal may be made by the agency.