The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) opted against changing the federal legal classification of marijuana.
The DEA rejected a 2011 petition for marijuana reclassification requested by the former governors of Washington and Rhode Island.
As such, marijuana’s status as a Schedule 1 substance, or those without “currently accepted medical use” and “high potential for abuse,” will remain in place. Drugs like heroin are in the same Schedule 1 category.
Although several states, including Illinois, have medical marijuana policies in place, the DEA asserts that “there is no evidence that there is a consensus among qualified experts that marijuana is safe and effective for use in treating a specific, recognized disorder.”
“At this time,” the DEA said in its report, “the known risks of marijuana use have not been shown to be outweighed by specific benefits in well-controlled clinical trials that scientifically evaluate safety and efficacy.”
The DEA, however, moved to allow for expanded medical marijuana research by way of increasing the number of growers allowed to produce the plant for research. The University of Mississippi is currently the only DEA-approved marijuana growing facility for research.
The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) is among the groups reacting to the DEA’s decision, calling it “a little sweet but mostly bitter.” MPP’s spokesperson Matt Tvert released the following statement:
The DEA’s refusal to remove marijuana from Schedule I is, quite frankly, mind-boggling. It is intellectually dishonest and completely indefensible. Not everyone agrees marijuana should be legal, but few will deny that it is less harmful than alcohol and many prescription drugs. It is less toxic, less addictive, and less damaging to the body.
We are pleased the DEA is finally going to end (the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s) monopoly on the cultivation of marijuana for research purposes. For decades it has been preventing researchers from exploring the medical benefits of marijuana. It has also stood in the way of any scientific inquiries that might contradict the DEA’s exaggerated claims about the potential harms of marijuana or raise questions about its classification under Schedule I.
The DEA’s announcement is a little sweet but mostly bitter. Praising them for it would be like rewarding a student who failed an exam and agreed to cheat less on the next one. Removing barriers to research is a step forward, but the decision does not go nearly far enough. Marijuana should be completely removed from the (Controlled Substances Act) drug schedules and regulated similarly to alcohol.