Why Does the Government Grow Weed in Mississippi?
Published on 5/10/21
While the federal government has not legalized cannabis (marijuana is still a Schedule I drug), it has long researched marijuana. It might come as a surprise, but all federally legal cannabis research is contracted to the University of Mississippi. What does this mean for the cannabis industry? Why has the government been growing weed in Mississippi if it is written off as a Schedule I drug? Let's take a deeper look to figure this out.
The History of Federal Cannabis Policy in America
Cannabis has been a controversial issue in America for a long time, and it was cemented as a public enemy with the War on Drugs that began in the early 1970s. At that time, weed was officially categorized as a Schedule I drug, meaning that it is slated as a highly dangerous substance with no medical use. Since then, the public has been harassed with continuous anti-marijuana propaganda. Cannabis gets clumped together with other drugs such as heroin and meth, campaigns such as Nancy Reagan's "Just Say No" and "D.A.R.E." have historically avoided practical education of marijuana's uses and downsides, fueling a black-and-white view of cannabis. It has also been used to unjustly put members of underrepresented and minority communities behind bars. While the public's stance is changing and more states now have medical cannabis programs than not, the government continues to reinforce its federally illegal, Schedule I status. The government has a long history with cannabis - none of it good - which makes it especially difficult to understand why it has been growing weed at the University of Mississippi for so long.
The History Of Mississippi's Contract with the Federal Government
The federal government has partnered with the University of Mississippi to study cannabis longer than they've been waging the War on Drugs. In 1968, the University of Mississippi won the government contract to provide standardized weed for research purposes and immediately grew the first-ever crop of research weed. UM has kept that contract for over 50 years, having to reapply and compete to keep it every three to five years.
Supervised by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the University of Mississippi has been tasked to continuously provide a cannabis product that helps standardize cannabis studies. The University of Mississippi Medical Center is also responsible for a good amount of independent cannabis studies. Recently, they've applied their resources to understanding CBD extracts and their impact on conditions such as epilepsy. They have also begun to study the other chemical compounds within marijuana, such as THC benefits and other cannabinoids, to progress the development of FDA-approved, cannabis pharmaceuticals. While this goes against the government's current official stance on cannabis as a Schedule I drug, we can hope that such research will validate the therapeutical benefits of medical marijuana.
The Downside of Current Cannabis Research
Because cannabis is still federally illegal and classified as a Schedule I drug, the government provides almost all the weed used for research across the United States. Especially in the last decade, as cannabis becomes easily available in more states, the discrepancy between medical and research quality is more apparent. Cultivation operations within legalized states have begun to produce higher quality weed that also contains more THC. Because of this, scientists have started asking the government for a product that resembles the weed being legally produced and consumed. Instead of quality weed that matches what people are legally consuming, research teams have largely received older, frozen cannabis from the government.
For years, research teams have complained that, while standardized, the quality of cannabis they receive for studies isn't high enough. Photos of what researchers are sent from the University of Mississippi only confirm that the weed they study is hardly usable. Usable cannabis is colorful and pungent, crystalized with THC resin that is freshly grown. The research weed contracted by the government cannot be described as such. Instead, it looks more like grass clippings with a ton of stems, and without any noticeable color or crystalline THC resin. Officials have agreed that much of what the government supplies for research is unusable and is likely affecting the results of studies. Additionally, most of the THC scientists have been given by UM has capped out at 13% THC, a much lower amount than cannabis being consumed across America. Without the proper THC amounts, studies cannot duplicate the actual effects when conducting medical marijuana research.
The Future of Government Cannabis Research
In 2016, the DEA announced that it would approve other growers to produce cannabis for official research purposes, but they have yet to assign another contract. The University of Mississippi is still the sole producer of government-approved marijuana. However, there are hopefully improvements being made to the quality of cannabis being produced for research. UM has begun to publish the results of its Potency Monitory Program, with which they are studying various levels of THC in their plants. Higher THC content is something scientists have been wanting for years, and hopefully, soon they might get it.
Perhaps most promising, the US House of Representatives recently passed the Medical Marijuana Research Act in December 2020. This act will expedite access to cannabis for research and addresses the systems surrounding cannabis in America, including those built around the research. The Medical Marijuana Research Act, if fully passed, will allow researchers access to cannabis products being used by consumers of state medical cannabis programs and provide a structure for reporting medical marijuana benefits and other cannabis medicine findings. If this happens, we may be entering a new age of cannabis research. Please check in here for more medical marijuana news about research and federal implementation.
Let us know what you think about the research program at the University of Mississippi and how you think cannabis research will develop in the years to come. Comment below!