DEA Wonders if We Should Grow More Pot?

I kid you not. The government agency charged with fighting the scourge of illicit drugs is actually wondering how they could get us to grow more of it. As marijuana use becomes more ubiquitous in society and as the culture at large grows to accept its use the DEA will likely continue to move in the direction of decriminalization… which seems more and more likely each day.

The Drug Enforcement Administration says the federal government needs to produce 400,000 grams of marijuana for 2015—three times the amount originally proposed for this year.

The agency will begin accepting public comment for 30 days starting on Wednesday, when the proposal is officially published in the Federal Register, reports.

According to DEA administrator Michele Leonhart, researchers are clamoring for a higher quota of marijuana, especially because of the potential of cannabidiol, a compound in marijuana, to treat severe forms of epilepsy.

Since marijuana counts as a Schedule I drug and currently has no recognized medicinal value as far as federal law is concerned, production is limited to the DEA under the Controlled Substances Act through what are called aggregate production quotas. The first APQ, issued in September 2014, limited legitimate marijuana production to just 125,000 grams. Now, six months later, the DEA is deciding that the feds need to be allowed additional amounts.

Part of the motivation for a change in quotas this year comes from requests sent in by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

NIDA has recently become more optimistic about the ability of researchers to discover new medical applications of cannabis, and in a recent publication in April, stated that, “recent animal studies have shown that marijuana can kill certain cancer cells and reduce the size of others. Evidence from one animal study suggests that extracts from whole-plant marijuana can shrink one of the most serious types of brain tumors.”

The trend follows last year’s move to increase quotas. In 2014, the DEA bumped up the amount of marijuana that could be manufactured from a paltry sum of 21,000 grams to 650,000 grams.

Still, even with boosted quotas, pot research in the U.S. is a difficult. Federal agencies control access to the drug, and as Paul Armentano, the deputy director for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, told Al Jazeera, “These are agencies in place to reflect a policy that marijuana is a prohibited Schedule I substance.”