(Pablo Porciuncula, AFP/Getty)

U.S. government to grow 1,430 pounds of weed for medical research

The U.S. government just increased its annual marijuana order by more than 30 times the original amount, and they’ll soon be growing nearly 1,500 pounds of cannabis at their pot farm in Mississippi.

Wait, the federal government has a pot farm in Mississippi? Yes, they do. They’ve been growing grass there since the ’60s.

Going into this year the federal government’s established 2014 marijuana quota was 21,000 grams, but it was adjusted earlier this week to 650,000 grams — accounting for more medical research at the federal level.

According to a Federal Register statement from May 5:

In determining to adjust the aggregate production quota, the DEA takes into consideration, among other factors, the relevant scientific and research needs of the United States … The National Institute on Drug Abuse (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. Specifically, NIDA stated that 600 kilograms is necessary to be manufactured in 2014.

Michael Elliott, executive director of the Marijuana Industry Group, hopes this is the first step in a process that will eventually remove marijuana from the federal government’s Schedule I list of drugs.

“The current federal law is absurd and untenable because marijuana obviously has medical value and is not as dangerous as heroin,” said Elliott. “The only way marijuana has stayed Schedule I for 45 years is with this head-in-the-sand mentality and not allowing the research to prove the absurdity of marijuana’s Schedule I status. This movement is a very positive sign, though it’s very tough to see the final outcome.”

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Other Schedule I substances include heroin and LSD, and the DEA defines them “as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse,” according to the agency’s website. “Schedule I drugs are the most dangerous drugs of all the drug schedules with potentially severe psychological or physical dependence.”

Added Elliott: “What we’ve seen is a brick wall when it comes to research. The only research that has been allowed has showed how awful marijuana is, and they have not been willing to research the medical efficacy of marijuana, which is an incredible shame. Here in Colorado we have so many reports about kids with epilepsy, veterans with PTSD, cancer patients, AIDS patients and people suffering from simple depression or back pain.

“There are so many examples of people saying, ‘This works, and it works better than anything else,’ but for such a long time all we’ve gotten from the federal government is a brick-wall mentality that they can’t hear it; they’re still saying marijuana is really as dangerous as heroin and there are no medical uses for it. It’s exciting to see the change.”

The change here? Sanctioned research.

On the state level, Colorado legislators on Tuesday pushed forward a bill that will spend $10 million in state money — excess medical marijuana fees — “to ascertain the general medical efficacy and appropriate administration of marijuana,” the bill reads. “The grant program shall be limited to providing for objective scientific research to ascertain the efficacy of marijuana and hemp as part of medical treatment and should not be construed as encouraging or sanctioning the social or recreational use of marijuana. The grant program shall fund observational trials and clinical trials.”

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper is expected to approve the bill.

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“This will dedicate $10 million to study the medical efficacy of marijuana in Colorado,” said Elliott. “This is state money that will be put toward it, and it’s very exciting.”

On the federal level, the primary reason cited for their 30-times increase in marijuana growing is research. When they upped their order from 21,000 grams to 650,000 grams, they called in one of the largest legal pot buys in the plant’s history: more than 1,430 pounds of weed. According to the Federal Register statement:

The aggregate production quota for marijuana should be increased in order to provide a continuous and uninterrupted supply of marijuana in support of DEA-registered researchers who are approved by the Federal Government to utilize marijuana in their research protocols.

It’s big news with potentially lasting ramifications, said Elliott.

“It’s great to see movement here, as we have kids with epilepsy who come to Colorado from across the world looking for a miracle cure,” said Elliott. “And we’ve seen so many examples of it working, but we need real science to be brought to the table. Perhaps marijuana won’t work for certain people, or maybe it’s a particular strain or dose they need to take.

“When it comes to protecting kids, we have to do everything we can to give them certainty or reliability that what they’re taking is safe, that they aren’t going to have adverse reactions and that these families that are moving from across the world here to Colorado are not changing their entire lives for something that isn’t going to work.”