The U.S. government has upped the quantity of marijuana it's growing this year, to more than 1,400 pounds from the originally planned 46.
The federal government classifies marijuana as a substance that has no medical use and is more dangerous than cocaine. But it's willing to let researchers have access — under a few conditions.
One condition is that each project needs approval from the Drug Enforcement Administration. Another is that researchers get the substance from a particular source: the federal government.
The marijuana is grown at the University of Mississippi, which has the federal contract to do so for research purposes, DEA spokesman Rusty Payne said, and the quotas exist "so we don't have too much of something that could get diverted" to non-sanctioned purposes.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse, which "oversees the cultivation, production and distribution of research-grade marijuana on behalf of the United States government," said it would need 30 times more marijuana this year than in the last several years, the DEA said. But for a while, quotas were even higher: nearly 10,000 pounds a year in 2005 through 2009.
The adjustment to this year's quota took effect Tuesday.
Also this week, research suggested that the availability of medical marijuana could help cut down on fatal overdoses of prescription painkillers.
Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia allow medical marijuana. Two of those, Colorado and Washington, also allow recreational use of the drug.