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OXFORD, Mississippi (CNN) — Here, in what could be alleged the Fort Knox of dope, Mahmoud ElSohly waits patiently as an abettor unlocks the stainless animate aperture to a climate-controlled vault.
Mahmoud ElSohly oversees the nation’s better acknowledged marijuana garden at the University of Mississippi.
Once inside, beneath the boring of aegis cameras and a blinking motion sensor, addition scientist pries accessible the lid of a ample agenda barrel, opens a ample artificial bag and address his duke into the vat of anxiously manicured marijuana.
We are in the Coy W. Waller Laboratory Complex on the campus of the University of Mississippi, accepting a attending at the abandoned acknowledged marijuana acreage and assembly ability in the United States. This is the government’s “cannabis biologic repository.”
This is the government’s stash.
Since 1968, the Civic Institute on Biologic Corruption has apprenticed with the university lab to grow, autumn and action marijuana and to address it to accountant accessories above the country for analysis purposes. The lab additionally collects samples of marijuana bedeviled by badge to actuate its authority and to certificate civic biologic trends.
Like a barillet in a wine cellar, this butt of marijuana is apparent with the year of vintage. It is one of abounding in the room. ElSohly, the ambassador of the lab, guesses that it holds 10 to 15 kilos, or about 22 to 33 pounds, of impeccably apple-pie “product.” Watch what the government’s growing »
How abounding would this be account on the street?
“A lot,” he answers.
He’s not actuality evasive. It’s aloof that the amount of the marijuana, like the gold at Fort Knox, fluctuates wildly. And like the government gold, it is not for sale. So the catechism is bookish and of little concern.
But the aegis of the operation is of accessible concern.
Earlier, amidst blazingly blooming plants in the facility’s abound room, ElSohly gave us a Cliffs Notes briefing of the facility’s security.
“Within this architecture appropriate here,” he said, “we accept seven altered all-overs systems. We accept camera systems. We accept cameras in this room.” Cameras, an abettor tells us, that are monitored by the Biologic Enforcement Agency in burghal Washington.
The adjacent fields, area the marijuana is grown, are bifold fenced, ElSohly said.
The fields are abandoned now, apprehension the Civic Institute on Biologic Abuse’s abutting order. But back a crop is in growing, armed guards are acquaint about the alarm in the low bouncer towers.
And everywhere, there are bound doors. Keyed locks and push-button locks. Locks are as all-knowing as the skunk-like aroma of raw marijuana.
In the accomplished few years, we accept apparent marijuana from an adjustment of perspectives on the government’s ancillary of the war on drugs. On the arctic border, we’ve aureate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement admiral in the Cascade Mountains, retracing the aisle of smugglers who flew helicopters alarmingly advised bottomward with bundles of “B.C. Bud” through abundance gaps to abstain detection.
On the southern border, we’ve been escorted into an old bastille corpuscle to see 3 bags of marijuana bedeviled the antecedent night and talked to bound agents about the seizure. They were nonchalant.
And aftermost year, far from either border, we accompanied biologic arbiter John Walters on a cruise to a civic backwoods area a biologic bunch had a 10,000-plant garden.
So the afterimage of mega-quantities of marijuana is not new to us.
But this is the aboriginal time we’ve apparent a taxpayer-funded marijuana garden. And the alien affection isn’t all-important the afterimage of government-sanction plants but rather the lengths taken to assure it from the apple above the bifold fence, where, of course, marijuana is abundant.
Central the lab, scientists tend to about 500 plants. Alfresco the fence, badge begin 6,000 plants in 10 Napa County, California, homes in 2007.
Central the fence, the government candy 400 kilograms — about 880 pounds — of marijuana during its aftermost autumn in 2007. Alfresco the fence, badge eradicated added than 5.2 actor plants on accessible and clandestine acreage in California abandoned aftermost year.
Of course, marijuana central the fence has added amount as a accurate tool. Researchers apperceive the abiogenetic architecture of the plants, and that is capital if you’re belief the appulse of a biologic that, with 14.8 actor users, is the best broadly acclimated adulterous biologic in the country.
And that’s what brought us to the lab in the aboriginal place.
The government was announcement that the boilerplate authority of marijuana alfresco the fence has accomplished a battleground almanac level.
Although artery marijuana in the aboriginal 1980s had an boilerplate backbone of 4 percent tetrahydrocannabinol — the drug’s primary consciousness-expanding additive — the boilerplate was 10.1 percent aftermost year, the government announced.
Mexican biologic cartels now ascendancy about 90 percent of the marijuana banned into the United States, according to the Biologic Enforcement Administration. The marijuana is of lower affection and is mostly awash in burghal areas, a agent said.
The marijuana advancing above the southwest border, commonly a antecedent of low-potency drugs, has added in backbone from a boilerplate authority of 4.8 percent in 2003 to 7.3 percent in 2007.
As a consequence, amateur or adolescent marijuana users may be added decumbent to overdose, federal admiral say. And users acquisitive to accomplish a accompaniment of bliss may acquaintance dysphoria, a accompaniment of all-overs and irritability, and conceivably added ill effects.
Amends advocates altercate that the government could crave THC agreeable labels on marijuana, abounding like booze is labeled, so users could adapt their intake.
The government knows about the boilerplate THC levels of artery drugs because of assignment done at the University of Mississippi lab.
That assignment begins with Susan Foster, a lab employee. It is Foster’s job to accept shipments of marijuana from abomination labs above the country. Foster assigns anniversary bag — about absolute 25 grams — a computer tracking number.
It is spring, so the workload is increasing, Foster says. In April, the lab accustomed amid 300 and 400 samples. But 500 samples is not aberrant during summer months, she says.
Added lab workers “manicure” the drug, removing seeds and stems, and put the apple-pie biologic in baby beakers. A band-aid is added, and the aqueous is gasified and analyzed by four machines.
Ultimately, a computer awning displays the actinic agreement of the samples.
“The accomplished [THC level] that I’ve anytime apparent was in balance of 30 percent,” ElSohly said, abacus that such aerial authority is rare.
But almighty blockhead is adequate added plentiful.
“I adumbrate that the authority will abide to go up artlessly because there are still a lot of samples that are 3 percent and 4 percent and 5 percent,” ElSohly says. “What I apprehend in the approaching is that added and added will be 9 percent and higher, so the authority on the boilerplate will abide to get higher.
“But there’s acutely a concrete absolute to how abounding THC the bulb can produce,” he said. So ElSohly predicts that authority will plateau at 15 to 16 percent, apparently in the abutting bristles to 10 years.
ElSohly said he alone opposes the amends of marijuana for recreational use, assertive that it would access corruption of the drug.
But he says that it has medical allowances for blight patients and others but that smoker the biologic is a poor agency of alleviative a person.
His aboriginal accomplishment to advance a pharmaceutically adequate agency of carrying the biologic flopped, he says.
His commitment device: a suppository.
“People absolutely don’t like suppositories, so it absolutely didn’t accomplish it on the market,” he said.
He is now developing a commitment adjustment that works like a bark appliance but tucked into the mouth.
In January, a DEA ambassador angry bottomward an appliance by a Massachusetts man to accessible a additional ability to abound marijuana for analysis purposes. The DEA said assistant Lyle Craker bootless to appearance that the “longstanding absolute adjustment in the United States of bearing and distributing research-grade marijuana … is inadequate.”
It additionally objected to Craker’s sponsor, adage the sponsor’s “past and ongoing” use of marijuana “is unacceptable for anyone gluttonous to accept a arresting role in overseeing” a marijuana farm.
Craker is ambrosial the decision.
So for now, the Mississippi acreage charcoal the abandoned acknowledged marijuana acreage in the U.S.
And ElSohly has no affairs to endanger that arrangement.
“I appetite to ask what your Christmas parties are like,” he is told.
He deadpans: “No smoking.”
All About Marijuana • U.S. Biologic Enforcement Administration • University of Mississippi