The DEA is finally considering medical marijuana as a tool to combat America's opioid epidemic, which killed over 49,000 Americans in 2016 alone.
In a Federal Register filing that will be published soon, the DEA will announce plans to reduce the number of opioids produced in 2019 and to quintuple the amount of cannabis grown for research purposes, according to Tom Angell, who broke the story for Forbes on Thursday.
"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 in a press release outlining plans to reduce the number of opioid prescriptions in America by one third. "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 DEA also plans to increase the amount of cannabis that can be manufactured for research purposes next year from 443,680 (just over 978 lbs) to 2,450,000 (more than 5400 lbs). The huge increase in cannabis production quotas could signal the arrival of more facilities licensed for drug testing. Currently, a lab operated by the University of Mississippi is the only facility sanctioned by the National Institute on Drug Abuse to produce cannabis for research purposes. That limited source of production has essentially become one of the primary roadblocks to conducting cannabis research, according to NORML Political Director Justin Strekal.
"While the drastic increase in requested production of marijuana by the DEA is a positive sign, significant barriers still exist including but not limited to the NIDA monopoly on cultivation and undue hurdles for researchers to qualify for a permit," Strekal told Forbes.
With this news, it's possible that other federal institutions will begin to loosen their marijuana stance soon, too.