The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) wants to more than double the amount of marijuana that can be legally manufactured for research in 2023—and it’s also seeking to significantly increase the quota for the production of psychedelics like psilocyn, LSD and mescaline.
In a notice set to be published in the Federal Register next week, DEA proposed growing about 6.7 million grams (or 14,770 pounds) of cannabis. The agency’s final marijuana quota for 2022 was 3.2 million grams, and it was two million grams for 2021.
Growing that much cannabis may be easier since DEA finally authorized additional manufacturers at the beginning of the year. Those approved cultivators are now able to apply for a contract to be federal marijuana suppliers for study purposes under the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
DEA has also been consistently increasing the production goals for psychedelics in recent years as more states and localities have enacted reform and interest in their therapeutic potential has boomed.
The proposed quota for psilocybin is the same in 2023 as it was this year, at 8,000 grams. But it’s looking to double the manufacturing of the other key ingredient in so-called magic mushrooms, psilocyn, from 4,000 to 8,000 grams.
“There has been a significant increase in the use of schedule I hallucinogenic controlled substances for research and clinical trial purposes,” the agency said. “DEA has received and subsequently approved new registration applications for schedule I researchers and new applications for registration from manufacturers to grow, synthesize, extract, and prepare dosage forms containing specific schedule I hallucinogenic substances for clinical trial purposes.”
For LSD, the agency’s 2023 quota is 1,200 grams, almost triple the 500 gram production level for this year. Further, it wants 6,000 grams of 5-MeO-DMT, versus 2,550 in 2022.
DEA is also proposing to dramatically increase how much mescaline is produced, from 100 to 1,200 grams.
That psychedelic, which naturally occurs in peyote and other cacti, is sometimes excluded from decriminalization proposals out of concern about over-harvesting threatening supplies for indigenous communities that use it ritualistically. But it can also be produced synthetically.
“These proposed 2023 quotas reflect the quantities that DEA believes are necessary to meet the estimated medical, scientific, research, and industrial needs of the United States, including any increase in demand for certain controlled substances used to treat patients with COVID-19; lawful export requirements; and the establishment and maintenance of reserve stocks,” DEA said.
Additionally, the agency upped the quota for “all other THC”—from 2,000 to 15,000 grams—which may reflect the growing interest and marketing of intoxicating cannabinoids other than delta-9 THC, such as delta-8 and delta-10.
While those lesser-known cannabinoids aren’t currently classified as controlled substances when derived from legal hemp, the agency said that it “supports regulated research with schedule I controlled substances, as evidenced by increases proposed for 2023 as compared with aggregate production quotas for these substances in 2022.”
Meanwhile, DEA has kept the quotas the same for 2023 for other psychedelics of interest, such as psilocybin (8,000 grams), MDMA (8,200 grams), DMT (3,00 grams), MDA (200 grams) and marijuana extract (one million grams).
DEA also noted in the Federal Register filing that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) “predicts that levels of medical need for schedule II opioids in the United States in calendar year 2023 will decline on average 5.3 percent from calendar year 2022 levels.”
“These declines are expected to occur across a variety of schedule II opioids including fentanyl, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, oxycodone, and oxymorphone. DEA considered the potential for diversion of schedule II opioids, as required by 21 CFR 1303.11(b)(5), as well as a potential increase in demand for certain opioids identified as being necessary to treat ventilated patients with COVID-19, pursuant to 21 CFR 1303.11(b)(7), in the proposed 2023 aggregate production quotas.”
|Substance||2021 final||2022 final|
|All other tetrahydrocannabinol||1,000||2,000||15,000|
Once the new DEA notice is published in the Federal Register on Tuesday, interested parties will have 30 days to file comments on the proposal.
The agency has touted its Schedule I drug production quotas as evidence that is supports rigorous research into the substances, but it’s faced criticism from advocates and scientists over actions that are viewed as antithetical to promoting studies.
Following pushback, DEA recently retreated on a proposed ban on psychedelic compounds that scientists say have research value.
That marked another win for scientific community, coming just one month after DEA abandoned separate plans to place five tryptamine psychedelics in Schedule I.
The agency has repeatedly found itself in court over drug scheduling issues and administrative policy. For instance, DEA is actively being sued for refusing to permit a Seattle-based doctor to access psilocybin to treat terminally ill patients under federal “Right to Try” statute.
To that end, bipartisan lawmakers have moved to provide additional congressional clarification by filing companion bills in the House and Senate in July to reaffirm that the scope of Right to Try policy should include Schedule I drugs.
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The bills were filed about six months after bipartisan members of Congress sent a letter, led by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), requesting that DEA allow terminally ill patients to use psilocybin as an investigational treatment without the fear of federal prosecution.
Meanwhile, the Justice Department is now carrying out a scientific review of marijuana after President Joe Biden issued a scheduling directive last week that accompanied a pardon proclamation for people who’ve committed federal cannabis possession offenses.
DOJ and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have committed to carrying out the review expeditiously.
Image element courtesy of Kristie Gianopulos.