TIME Drugs

The Government Wants to Buy 12 Acres of Marijuana — for Research

Marijuana Pot Weed Farm Growers
Jordan Stanley and others prune hemp plants growing on their family'’s farm outside Wray, Colo., on July 31, 2014 Matthew Staver—The New York Times/Redux

The NIH is looking for pot farmers

Calling all pot farmers: Uncle Sam is looking to buy.

An arm of the National Institutes of Health dedicated to researching drug abuse and addiction “intends” to solicit proposals from those who can “harvest, process, analyze, store and distribute” cannabis, according to a listing posted Tuesday night on a federal government website.

A successful bidder must possess a “secure and video monitored outdoor facility” capable of growing and processing 12 acres of marijuana, a 1,000-sq.-ft. (minimum) greenhouse to test the plants under controlled conditions, and “demonstrate the availability” of a vault approved by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Food and Drug Administration to maintain between 400 and 700 kg of pot stock, extract and cigarettes.

Back-up plans in case of emergency required.

The NIH’s National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is looking for growers who have the capability to develop plants with altered versions of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive component of pot, and cannabidiol (CBD), which is known for its medicinal properties. NIDA “anticipates” awarding a one-year contract with four one-year options, according to the posting. The vendor would also have to register with the DEA to research, manufacture and distribute cannabis.

NIDA spokeswoman Shirley Simson said the agency was simply starting a new bidding competition since its existing marijuana-farm contract is set to expire next year. The original solicitation for that contract was issued in 2009.

There are 18 states that have decriminalized pot, 23 states with laws allowing access to medical marijuana, and two states — Colorado and Washington — that have legalized the drug for recreational purposes. Federal law still classifies marijuana as a drug on par with heroin, acid and ecstasy.

— With reporting by Mark Thompson

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