Oh, the irony. Even as various federal agencies rail against legal weed, the government is growing more of the stuff. A lot more.
The feds plan to grow 1,430 pounds of research-grade marijuana this year, officials said Aug. 26. That’s up 3,100 percent from 46.3 pounds last year. The pot is grown on a highly guarded farm in Mississippi controlled by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
That agency, the DEA, and other federal law enforcement groups are highly antagonistic toward any kind of marijuana reform. Growing more weed for research purposes is definitely out of character.
The DEA pre-approved the production increase in April and offered it for public discussion in May. Just one person filed a comment with the government.
“The DEA appreciates the support for this adjusted 2014 aggregate production quota for marijuana which will provide for the estimated scientific, research and industrial needs of the United States,” said a notice published by the agency. “The DEA has taken into consideration the one comment received during the 30-day period and the administrator has determined” the change is appropriate.
It only makes sense that the government would plant more dope, of course. Nearly half the states allow medical marijuana, while two have legalized the drug for recreational use. The call for serious research has increased greatly in recent years.
The pot is grown on a farm managed by NIDA and the University of Mississippi. It is the only legal source of research cannabis allowed by the federal government.
DEA officials said they pre-approved the increase early because the agency underestimated scientists’ needs when approving last year’s initial annual quota.
“Due to the manufacturing process unique to marijuana, including the length of time and conditions necessary to propagate and process the substance for distribution in 2014, it is necessary to adjust the initial, established 2014 aggregate production quota for marijuana as soon as practicable,” the DEA said in the public notice. “Accordingly, the administrator finds good cause to adjust the aggregate production quota for marijuana before accepting written comments from interested persons or holding a public hearing.”
Neither NIDA nor the DEA would comment on the change, and it’s unclear exactly how much weed the farm produces already. But NIDA said in May that the pot would fund more than 100 research grants, including 30 studies into the “therapeutic uses” of marijuana.
NIDA has historically blocked any research that might lead to positive information about cannabis. It’s not clear whether the increase in production marks any kind of departure from that position.
Some pot proponents are suspicious of the change. Kris Hermes, a spokesman for Americans for Safe Access, called it “very fishy.”
The feds are actually growing less weed these days than they used to. During the Bush administration, the production quota reached nearly 10,000 pounds. Hermes said he doesn’t know why the quota dropped to 46.3 two years into the Obama presidency.
“They still aren’t divulging why the quota is increasing and why it’s not increasing how much it has in the past,” he said. “It’s shrouded in secrecy.”