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$68 Million Marijuana Research Contract Awarded to University of Mississippi

The National Institute of Health (NIH) will hand over nearly $70 million dollars to the University of Mississippi’s marijuana research lab, which since 1968, has been the only academic entity permitted to grow pot under the auspices of the U.S. government. The recent contract provides for Ole Miss to increase the number of plants it is growing to 30,000, according to the Los Angeles Times. This stash, grown on 12 acres of campus land, is the only official source of pot available for researchers testing marijuana for medical purposes.

While the government appears to be interested in developing new methods for growing plants that contain a variety of different levels of THC and cannabidiol, researchers complain about the lack of access and unreasonable scrutiny they experience in pursuing their work. To get anything from the Ole Miss project, researcher must first be approved by the DEA and, in some cases, a separate panel with a representative from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) must also sign off on the project.

“It is a bizarre situation,” said Orrin Devinsky, director of the Comprehensive Epilepsy Center at NYU Langone Medical Center. “The DEA is acting like this is 1935 and cannabis is this extremely dangerous substance.”

Researchers are hoping that President Obama’s possible rescheduling of marijuana might open the door to more access and more studies around the country.

A NIDA spokeswoman told TIME last August that the agency was starting a new bidding competition for the government contract because the current one was set to expire in 2015. On Monday, officials announced that the exclusive deal with Ole Miss would continue.

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