Join Our Newsletter Now!

The U.S. Government Grows Lousy, Moldy Weed

2 minute Read

Leave it to the United States government to grow the lousiest weed.

The government has just one cannabis farm, run by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and located at the University of Mississippi. This is the country’s only source of cannabis intended for clinical research. Without any experience, you could probably grow better stuff in your basement.

The government’s weed is contaminated with mold. Its stalks are flimsy, the buds less than dank. Intentional or not, this poor quality cannabis sabotages the full potential for scientists to use it for research.

Despite the availability of high quality cannabis grown in states like California or Colorado, the Mississippi farm is the only cultivation facility with a DEA license. The few people who try to conduct government approved research on cannabis using human subjects are forced to use this stuff rather than anything decent grown in the rest of the country.

That’s what happened to Sue Sisley, a scientist from Scottsdale, Arizona. Two years after she and her colleagues from the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) received a grant to study cannabis as a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder in 76 veterans, the package of government weed finally arrived.

It looked more like a green powder than cannabis. It didn’t smell like cannabis either, Sisley says. And on top of being moldy, the weed didn’t even meet the standards for chemical potency that Sisley needed for the study.

She had the government weed tested at an independent laboratory in Colorado, as part of the study’s protocol. One of the samples was marked as having 13 percent THC, but in reality only had eight percent. Other samples had even less. Additionally, the Colorado lab detected not just mold, but also yeast in various samples. Follow up testing at the University of Illinois in Chicago also confirmed the presence of yeast, mold, and moreover, trace amounts of lead.

“NIDA is completely inadequate as a source of marijuana for drug development and research,” says Rick Doblin, director of MAPS. “They’re in no way capable of assuming the rights and responsibilities for handling a drug that we’re hoping to be approved by the FDA as prescription medicine.”

Apparently nobody had ever looked for evidence of mold, lead, or potency shortcomings in the cannabis harvested from NIDA’s 12-acre farm and shipped off to Sisley. Neither the University of Mississippi nor NIDA tested the samples before they went out.

Likely, this government weed wouldn’t even qualify to be sold in most states, where regulatory standards require testing for heavy metals, such as lead, as well as yeast and mold. In Colorado, for example, cannabis fails the yeast and mold test if its content is generally higher than 10,000 “colony forming units” per gram (CFU/g). According to the Chicago tests, the samples shipped to Sisley’s team contained 23,000 to 64,000 CFU/g.

“We waited 20 months to get going, and then we got this sub-optimal study drug,” she says. “The longer we allow this monopoly to continue, the more efficacy {of the} research will continue to be thwarted.” After several months of research, Sisley’s team finally concluded it would be safe to go forward with the study.

The U.S. Government Grows Lousy, Moldy Weed