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The US government might finally let someone else supply scientists with pot

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Will University of Mississippi lose its 46-year contract? Probably not

David Ryder

Since 1968, the University of Mississippi has been the only source of marijuana that scientists in the US can use for federally-approved medical research. With its contract set to expire next year, the National Institute on Drug Abuse is now accepting bids from anyone with a 12-acre pot farm who meets the very specific requirements. Don't get your hopes up, though — chances are very high that Mississippi will win the contract again.

While marijuana is becoming more acceptable at the state level — both Washington and Colorado have legalized it for recreational use, while more than dozen others have decriminalized and / or legalized it for medical use — the federal government still classifies it as a Schedule I drug. That's the most restrictive level and places it alongside heroin, LSD, and ecstasy ("less abusive" Schedule II drugs include cocaine, OcyContin, and meth).

For scientists looking to test marijuana for medical purposes, that leaves you with one grower with finite resources and questionable potency. In 2007, the University of Massachusetts Amherst lobbied to become a second source of research pot but was ultimately denied by the Drug Enforcement Agency's top administrator Michele Leonhart, who still holds onto the job.

So the concerns go beyond who ultimately wins this contract (spoiler: it's Mississippi), but let's stay you're still determined to apply. According to a posting on Federal Business Opportunities, NIDA is looking for new pot farmers to "cultivate and harvest, process, analyze, store, and distribute cannabis (marijuana) for research." The list of requirements are fairly specific (an indoor facility that's at least 1,000 square feet with several means of monitoring, a maintained inventory of around 400kg and 700 kg of marijuana in various forms) and the grower will need to apply and earn approval from multiple governmental bodies including both the Food and Drug Administration and the Drug Enforcement Administration.

NIDA is looking to grant a one-year contract (with four one-year extension offers). The deadline is set for September 10th.