- The Washington Times - Friday, August 17, 2018

The Drug Enforcement Administration wants a bigger pot stash.

The agency will propose Monday to increase the amount of marijuana that can be legally grown in the U.S. for research purposes by more than 400 percent, potentially expanding the scientists’ supply to roughly 5,400 pounds in 2019.

The proposed production quotas scheduled to be published Monday in the Federal Register also would impose new limits on the manufacturing of frequently abused opioids.

The proposed figures reflect “the total amount of controlled substances necessary to meet the country’s medical, scientific, research, industrial and export needs for the year and for the establishment and maintenance of reserve stocks,” the DEA  said in a press release.

Specifically the DEA proposed more than quintupling the amount of marijuana that can be grown for research from 443,680 grams in 2018, to 2,450,000 grams in 2019, an increase of 452 percent.

Additionally, the agency proposed permitting the production of 384,460 grams of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC — the plant’s principal psychoactive component, repeating the same amount sought in last year’s request.

The latest proposal, published in advance on the Federal Register website Friday morning, also said the DEA will rein in production of the six most abused opioids — oxycodone, hydrocodone, oxymorphone, hydromorphone, morphine and fentanyl — in order to curb what Attorney General Jeff Sessions called “the worst drug crisis in American history.”

“Cutting opioid production quotas by an average of ten percent next year will help us continue that progress and make it harder to divert these drugs for abuse,” Mr. Sessions said in a statement.

“We’ve lost too many lives to the opioid epidemic, and families and communities suffer tragic consequences every day,” added DEA Acting Administrator Uttam Dhillon. “This significant drop in prescriptions by doctors and DEA’s production quota adjustment will continue to reduce the amount of drugs available for illicit diversion and abuse while ensuring that patients will continue to have access to proper medicine.”

The proposed quotas will face a 30-day comment period, and the DEA may hold a public hearing on the request pending its outcome, the notice said.

If approved, the DEA’s request for more marijuana could potentially crack a decades-old monopoly held by the University of Mississippi, home of the only facility authorized to grow the government’s official supply of research-grade weed since 1968.

Ole Miss is the only entity to hold a DEA Schedule-I Bulk Manufacturer license to cultivate marijuana for research purposes, the school says on its website, creating obstacles for scientists who want to study the plant given its status as a federally controlled Schedule 1 substance subject to stringent government regulation and restrictions.

The Obama administration said in 2016 that the government would begin letting scientists get marijuana from facilities other than Ole Miss, but the DEA has not yet awarded any new bulk cultivation licenses.

Thirty states have passed laws legalizing the use of marijuana for medical purposes, and nine of those have decriminalized the plant by legalizing recreational or “adult use” cannabis, despite federal prohibition.

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