The move by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) last week to dramatically increase the amount of marijuana that can be legally grown in the U.S. in 2019 for research purposes, combined with its decision to reduce opioid production levels, surprised longtime observers of the anti-narcotics agency.
Now, in a new filing scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on Thursday, the agency is moving to also boost the cannabis quota for the current year.
Under the proposed update, 1,140,216 grams of marijuana will be needed in 2018 “to provide for the estimated medical, scientific, research, and industrial needs of the United States, for lawful export requirements, and for the establishment and maintenance of reserve stocks.”
That amount—more than 2,500 pounds of weed—isn’t nearly as much as the 5,400 pounds DEA proposed for next year, but it is more than double the 978 pounds the agency first proposed for 2018 in its initial filing late last year.
It is not immediately clear why DEA is moving to so dramatically increase cannabis cultivation quotas for 2018 and 2019, but it could have to do with an ongoing process to license more legal growers for research that was initiated under the Obama administration. While more than two dozen interested parties filed applications under the expanded program, the Department of Justice has blocked DEA from acting on the proposals.
A bipartisan group of members of Congress have repeatedly pressured U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions on this issue, so it could be the case that the department is feeling the pressure and will soon be giving the green light to more researchers to grow cannabis.
The DEA notice itself says that factors taken into account for adjusted quotas for marijuana and other drugs included:
“(1) Changes in the demand for that class or chemical, changes in the national rate of net disposal of the class or chemical, and changes in the rate of net disposal of the class or chemical by registrants holding individual manufacturing quotas for the class;
“(2) whether any increased demand for that class or chemical, the national and/or individual rates of net disposal of that class or chemical are temporary, short term, or long term;
“(3) whether any increased demand for that class or chemical can be met through existing inventories, increased individual manufacturing quotas, or increased importation, without increasing the aggregate production quota;
“(4) whether any decreased demand for that class or chemical will result in excessive inventory accumulation by all persons registered to handle that class or chemical; and
“(5) other factors affecting medical, scientific, research, and industrial needs in the United States and lawful export requirements, as the Acting Administrator [of DEA] finds relevant.”
“The Acting Administrator also considered updated information obtained from 2017 year-end inventories, 2017 disposition data submitted by quota applicants, estimates of the medical needs of the United States, product development, and other information made available to the DEA after the initial aggregate production quotas and assessment of annual needs had been established,” the notice says. “Other factors the Acting Administrator considered in calculating the aggregate production quotas, but not the assessment of annual needs, include product development requirements of both bulk and finished dosage form manufacturers, and other pertinent information.”
The proposals in the new filing will be open for public comment for 30 days.