- The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has rejected an appeal to change marijuana’s categorization from a Schedule I to a Schedule II drug.
- The decision was made based on data from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) stating that marijuana has no currently accepted medical use and is not considered safe or effective as a medicine.
- Despite federal law, medicinal marijuana laws have been implemented in 25 American states and the District of Columbia.
- The DEA is slated to allow more areas to cultivate marijuana for use in research on medical conditions. Until now, all marijuana for research use was grown exclusively at the University of Mississippi.
- Medical societies such as the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Neurology are advocating for easing marijuana laws to allow more research into its potential medical uses.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has declined the appeal of two ex-state leaders to relax marijuana’s rigid categorization under current narcotics legislation.
In making its decision, the DEA relied heavily on data from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. It was concluded by the FDA that marijuana has “no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States,” as stated by National Public Radio (NPR).
“This conclusion isn’t derived from potential danger. The ruling is based on whether marijuana, as declared by the FDA, is a safe and effective medicine, which it’s not,” DEA head Chuck Rosenberg mentioned in the NPR report.
The appeal, which was initially filed in 2011, wanted to see marijuana reclassified from a Schedule I drug to a Schedule II drug.
Schedule I narcotics are viewed as substances “with no currently recognized medical use, and a high potential for misuse,” according to the DEA’s official website. Heroin, LSD, and ecstasy, alongside marijuana, comprise the DEA’s Schedule I list.
The Distinction Between Schedule I and Schedule II Substances
In contrast, Schedule II narcotics have a high possibility of being misused, but “they are acknowledged to have some medicinal value,” stated Dr. J. Michael Bostwick, a psychiatry professor at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
Substances like morphine, methamphetamine, cocaine, and oxycodone are all listed as Schedule II drugs, “because they have therapeutic uses,” according to Bostwick. “So, it’s not like we don’t have precursors for substances that are risky due to addictive properties being useful in certain medical scenarios.”
However, even a reclassification by the DEA would fall “well short of the scale of federal reform required to mirror America’s emerging cannabis landscape,” as echoed in an earlier interview by Paul Armentano, the deputy director of the marijuana legalization group NORML.
Furthermore, the latest ruling means that federal law continues to contradict with the medicinal marijuana laws implemented in 25 states and the District of Columbia.
New Scope for Research on Cannabis
However, the DEA did declare it will permit more areas to cultivate marijuana for use in research on medical conditions, such as chronic pain and epilepsy.
At present, all marijuana available for research purposes is grown at the University of Mississippi, with a unique contract with the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) to supply the nation’s entire research portion, as per the DEA.
In any given year, NIDA dispatches shipments of marijuana to a select number of researchers, typically eight or nine, but sometimes up to 12, according to a DEA document.
This new ruling also means medical professionals continue to be in the dark as they regularly field queries from patients regarding the clinical benefits of marijuana.
The Need for Evidence-Based Recommendations
“I regularly receive inquiries about medical marijuana use as a practicing physician in a rural area, and I want to ensure I can provide advice to my patients which is evidence-based,” said Dr. Robert Wergin, chair of the American Academy of Family Physicians’ board.
“We require these kinds of studies to aid us in providing informed advice to our patients who inquire about it,” he added.
Several studies have indicated that marijuana might be successful in reducing chronic pain and nausea, easing seizures and enhancing appetite, or proving beneficial in psychiatric treatment, as reported by Wergin and Bostwick.
However, no large-scale definitive clinical trial has been conducted on these possible benefits. The reason: the DEA’s marijuana status prevents scientists from using large quantities of the plant for medical research, according to Wergin and Bostwick.
Societal Bodies Advocate for Changes
Both the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Neurology have advocated for easing marijuana laws to allow for additional research into its potential medical use.
Such research could lead to the creation of medications derived from marijuana that could treat specific conditions without causing a “high,” as per Wergin.
For further details
To learn more about drug scheduling, please visit the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.