As the nation’s only truly legal supplier of marijuana, the U.S. government keeps tight control of its stash, which is grown in a 12-acre fenced garden on the campus of the University of Mississippi in Oxford.
From there, part of the crop is shipped to Research Triangle Institute in North Carolina, where it’s rolled into cigarettes, all at taxpayer expense.
Even though Congress has long banned marijuana, the operation is legitimate. It’s run by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which doles out the pot for federally approved research projects.
While U.S. officials defend their monopoly, critics say the government is hogging all the pot and giving it mainly to researchers who want to find harms linked to the drug.
U.S. officials say the federal government must be the sole supplier of legal marijuana in order to comply with a 1961 international drug-control treaty. But they admit they’ve done relatively little to fund pot research projects looking for marijuana’s benefits, following their mandate to focus on abuse and addiction.