The US Drug Enforcement Agency is proposing to significantly increase the quota of cannabis that can be produced legally for use in research from 2,450 kilograms in 2019 to 3,200 kilograms in 2020. Under its rules, the DEA can approve companies to mass-produce Schedule 1 drugs for use in legitimate medical or scientific research. The number of individuals that are registered with the DEA to conduct research has also increased from 384 in 2017 to 542 in 2019.
The DEA establishes the quotas to avoid diversion of Schedule 1 drugs into the black market. The quotas are based on estimates of actual medical needs by reviewing the waste during the previous 2 years, the amount of waste across the nation, whether inventory is accumulating, and projected demand. The DEA receives input in this process from other government agencies including the FDA, CDC, and HHS. The increase in the number of registered researchers means that the total amount of marijuana cultivated for research purposes must also increase.
Companies can apply with the DEA to cultivate the marijuana that is used for research purposes. If approved, the companies may not engage in any other activities. The DEA evaluates that applications by ensuring that the company complies with all laws and regulations and that the company has sufficient controls to prevent diversion. The DEA will only register the number of applicants needed to maintain a steady supply of marijuana that is needed for research.
The DEA received 33 applications to date and expects to begin the Notice of Applications. Due to a large number of applicants, the DEA worked with the Department of Justice and other federal agencies to revise internal policies and procedures related to the marijuana grower program. The DEA will replace the 2016 marijuana grower policy with the new robust rules.