The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is looking to substantially build up domestic production of delta-9 THC and other cannabinoids for research purposes next year, while also maintaining high levels of psychedelics production as scientific interest continues to grow.
Just days after DEA proposed increasing its 2023 quotas for cannabis compounds and psychedelics like psilocybin and ibogaine, the agency said in a notice published in the Federal Register on Thursday that it plans to continue that trend next year, in part due to a transition away from cannabinoid imports to domestic manufacturing.
Earlier this week, DEA announced that it wants to nearly double the amount of psilocybin, psilocyn and delta-9 THC that’s manufactured compared to initial levels set for this year, while quintupling how much ibogaine is produced.
While the agency hasn’t proposed changing its 2023 6.7 million-gram quota for marijuana for 2024, it is now calling for the manufacturing of 900,610 grams of delta-9 THC and 790,010 grams of all other tetrahydrocannabinol. That represents another increase after DEA already moved this week to nearly double the 2023 quota for delta-9 THC to 628,460 grams and called for 350,000 grams of other tetrahydrocannabinols.
The large increase in manufacturing of all other tetrahydrocannabinol may be due to growing interest in isomers such as delta-8-THC and delta-10-THC.
For 2024, the agency is so far keeping the psychedelics quotas the same as in the recent 2023 revision. The proposed limit is 15,000 grams for psilocybin, 24,00 grams of psilocyn and 150 grams of ibogaine. Substances like MDMA, LSD, 5-MeO-DMT and mescaline will remain at 2023 established levels that had represented significant increases under prior quotas.
“There has been a significant increase in the use of schedule I hallucinogenic controlled substances for research and clinical trial purposes,” the new notice says. “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 research and clinical trial purposes.”
“DEA is proposing APQ for ibogaine, psilocyn, psilocybin, delta-9- tetrahydrocannabinol (d-9-THC), and all other tetrahydrocannabinols to support manufacturing activities related to the increased level of research and clinical trials with these schedule I controlled substances,” the agency said. “Additionally, DEA proposes APQs for d-9-THC and all other tetrahydrocannabinols for 2024 to reflect the relocation of manufacturing of these controlled substances from abroad to the United States.”
DEA’s cannabinoid quota levels, in grams, are as follows:
|Substance||2021 final||2022 final||2023 final||2023 adjusted||
|All other tetrahydrocannabinol||1,000||2,000||15,000||350,000||790,010|
To that end, DEA finally ended a longstanding monopoly on marijuana manufacturing for research purposes domestically. Additionally, as the agency acknowledged in the notice, it is implementing rules to streamline cannabis access for scientists following the enactment of a cannabis research bill late last year.
The proposed 2024 quotas, which are subject to a 30-day public comment period, come in the context of an ongoing administrative review into the scheduling status of cannabis that DEA is actively carrying after receiving a recommendation from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to move marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule III under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).
It also comes as experts await a potential federal approval for certain psychedelics like psilocybin and MDMA as therapeutics for the treatment of serious mental health conditions.
DEA 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.
Meanwhile, a federal appeals court recently ruled against DEA in a lawsuit over a Washington State doctor’s petition to reschedule psilocybin. The court said DEA failed to explain its reasoning when it denied the petition, and it ordered the agency to provide a more complete justification.
With respect to the agency’s marijuana scheduling review, a coalition of 31 bipartisan House lawmakers has sent a letter to DEA Administrator Anne Milgram, urging her to take into account congressional and state marijuana legalization efforts as it completes that assessment. They also criticized the limitations of simple rescheduling as they push for complete a complete removal of marijuana from the CSA.
The letter serves as a counterbalance to other recent messages DEA has received from congressional opponents of reform and former DEA and White House drug czars who argue that even moving marijuana to Schedule III would go too far.
A coalition of 14 Republican congressional lawmakers recently urged DEA to “reject” the top federal health agency’s recommendation to reschedule marijuana and instead keep it in the most restrictive category under the CSA.
Meanwhile, two GOP senators, including the lead Republican sponsor of a marijuana banking bill that cleared a key committee last month, recently filed new legislation to prevent federal agencies from rescheduling cannabis without tacit approval from Congress.
Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.