District of Columbia- The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) could be changing its tune on cannabis.
According to a release by the DEA, the agency plans on increasing the amount of cannabis produced for federal research from 1,000 pounds in 2018 to 5,400 in 2019.
Although there have been calls for years from the public and elected officials to increase cannabis production for research additional research, only the University of Missippi has been permitted to cultivate cannabis for federal research.
Medicinal cannabis use is legal in 30 states while recreational use has been approved in 9 states. Despite the wave of reform on the state level, cannabis is still a Schedule I narcotic and is considered to be just as dangerous as heroin and LSD in the eyes of federal authorities. Although the public overwhelmingly supports legalization, the federal government has been slow to act.
But the call to produce over five times more cannabis by the DEA may not have to do with public opinion polls. The opioid epidemic is costing America both lives and money. As the DEA unveiled its plan for an increase in federal cannabis productions, the agency also announced a decrease in the production of dangerous opioids such as fentanyl, hydrocodone, oxycodone, and others.
“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. “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.”
US Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, a long-time opponent of legalized cannabis, said that “the opioid epidemic that we are facing today is 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.”
Predicting what President Trump’s administration will do next on cannabis is difficult, but so far, his expected war on legalized cannabis has not materialized. With rising support and more states expected to reform their cannabis laws, it could be an uphill political battle for the administration if it was to conduct a widespread crackdown on cannabis.
Several states, including Michigan and Oklahoma, will have legalization issues on the ballot for voters in November.