The federal government may continue to classify marijuana as an illegal substance, but they are apparently considering doing more research on the drug. In a move that seemingly dovetails with the continued Class 1 classification of marijuana, the government has announced plans to solicit offers from companies that would be able to provide a sizeable amount of marijuana.

The agency in question is the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), which is a branch of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). NIDA is involved in the research of drug abuse as well as addiction. The organization is now accepting proposals from individuals and organizations that have the ability to harvest, process, and analyze marijuana. In order to meet eligibility requirements for the program, applicants should also have the ability to store and distribute marijuana. These requirements were listed on a federal government website on August 26, 2014.

According to the details of the announcement, bidders are required to show proof of ownership of an outdoor facility with security features including video monitoring. They should also have the ability to grow and process 12 acres of cannabis. Other requirements are ownership of a greenhouse measuring 1,000 sq. ft. or larger, and a vault that meets standards established by both the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Food and Drug Administration. This vault should be of sufficient size to hold from 400 and 700 kg of cannabis in the form of extracts and cigarettes.

NIDA specified that potential growers will need to have the capability to produce marijuana plants with altered forms of THC or tetrahydrocannabinol, which is the primary psychoactive ingredient of marijuana. Growers are also required to have the ability to produce plants high in cannabidiol (CBD) content in order to qualify for the program. Although cannabadiol does not produce any psychoactive effects, the ingredient is recognized for its medicinal qualities. Successful applicants to the program will be awarded a one-year contract by NIDA, with the option to extend the contract to 4 years. The terms posted on the website also stipulated that successful candidates will be required to register with the DEA in order to be allowed to research, manufacture and distribute marijuana legally.

This is actually not the first time that the federal government has solicited proposals from marijuana growers. With the contract with the current marijuana farm and the government set to expire in 2015, Shirley Simson of NIDA said that the current invitation was for a new round of bidding in order to fill the gap after the lapse of the current contract. The previous contract with the unnamed marijuana farm was signed into agreement in 2009.

To date, there are 18 states in the country that have passed legislation decriminalizing the use of marijuana. Twenty-three states have already legalized the cultivation, sale, and use of marijuana for medical purposes. Of these states, two–Colorado and Washington–have legalized marijuana for recreational purposes. Nevertheless, the federal government continues to classify marijuana as a drug with equal legal status as recognized dangerous drugs such as acid, ecstasy, and heroin.