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D.E.A. Trying To Increase Marijuana Growth and Decrease Opioid Production

By Roger Moleskin photo/Istock/PhotoBylove

 The word epidemic is not one that the federal government throws around lightly. Since around 2013, the U.S. has been going through an alarming increase in prescription related addiction and overdoses, with the main culprit clearly being opioids. Because of the crisis, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Department of Justice have found themselves in the unlikely position of mitigating opioid production and promoting marijuana as a safe alternative.
In a new Federal Register to be published shortly, both agencies are moving to reduce opioid production by one-third within 3 years, and more than quintuple the amount of cannabis that can legally be grown in the U.S. for research purposes.

“We’ve lost too many lives to the opioid epidemic and families and communities suffer tragic consequences every day,” DEA Acting Administrator Uttam Dhillon said. “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.”

Previously, the agency had authorized  443,680 grams of marijuana to be grown; that has now been bumped up to 2,450,000 grams by 2019.

 Since 1968, one farm owned by the University of Mississippi produced all the marijuana grown for research in the U.S., but scientists and others have complained about the logistics and how difficult it can be to access. Many other facilities have filed proposals to become licensed growers, but the justice department under notoriously anti-marijuana head Jeff Sessions has blocked them all.

However, Sessions is now being forced to change his tune. In addition to his anti marijuana crusade essentially being ignored by the President and congress, he can no longer avoid marijuana as a safe alternative to opioids without the Justice Department losing serious credibility. During a senate hearing last fall, Sessions conceded that it would be ‘healthy’ for more grow facilities besides the one in Mississippi, and that movement on the issue should be expected soon.

 It should be noted that there is no mention of adding more grow facilities to the list, but it isn’t likely that all 2 million plus grams would be grown at the same farm.

NORML Political Director Justin Strekal in an interview. "It's time that Congress look at the 28,000 plus peer-reviewed studies currently hosted on the National Institute of Health's online database and reform federal law by removing marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act all together."

 Ultimately, revised limits will encourage vigilance on the part of opioid manufacturers, help DEA respond to the changing drug threat environment, and protect the American people from potential addictive drugs while ensuring that the country has enough opioids for legitimate medical, scientific, research, and industrial needs.

This is another significant move by the government towards decriminalization. Even the most prominent anti marijuana political figure in the country, who is also the head of the Justice Department, cannot stop these changes. There are many victories for the legalization movement that we do not see or do not affect us directly such as this one, but every one of them brings up a step closer to what the American people know is right.