DEA declines request to reclassify marijuana, citing its ‘high potential for abuse’

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( – The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has declined two petitions to reclassify marijuana from a Schedule I controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), noting that cannabis “does not have a currently accepted medical use.”

“Using established scientific standards that are consistent with that same FDA drug approval process and based on the FDA’s [Food and Drug Administration] scientific and medical evaluation, as well as the legal standards in the CSA, marijuana will remain a schedule I controlled substance,” Chuck Rosenberg, DEA’s acting administrator, said in his August 11 letter to petitioners.

Marijuana “does not have a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, there is a lack of accepted safety for its use under medical supervision, and it has a high potential for abuse,” Rosenberg stated.

“If the scientific understanding about marijuana changes – and it could change – then the decision could change,” he added.

Bryan Krumm, a psychiatric nurse practitioner in New Mexico who says he uses cannabis to treat patients suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder,petitioned for marijuana to be removed from Schedule I in 2009.

Former Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire and former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee also petitioned for rescheduling of marijuana in November 2011. Current Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo took over the petition after winning their gubernatorial elections.

Their petition called for the drug to be reclassified from Schedule I to Schedule II to allow it to be used in medical treatments.

According to DEA, “Schedule I drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” DEA also considers schedule I to be the most dangerous controlled substances, with “potentially severe psychological or physical dependence.”

Besides marijuana, Schedule I drugs include heroin and lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD).

Schedule II drugs, which can induce “severe psychological or physiological dependency,” include opiods and barbituates such as adderall, cocaine, methamphetamine, oxycodone, ritalin and vicodin.

In response to both petitions, DEA requested scientific and medical evaluation and scheduling recommendation from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The evaluation was conducted by the FDA in consultation with the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), according to the DEA press release.

It also noted that the DEA and FDA still believe that the most appropriate way to conduct research on the possible medical benefits of marijuana are through “scientifically valid and well-controlled clinical trials conducted under investigational new drug applications”.

The DEA’s decision to retain marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance is at odds with a number of state laws legalizing marijuana for medical or even recreational purposes.

According to the FDA, 23 states have laws recognizing “medical marijuana”; 13 states have statutes allowing the use of cannabidol (CBD), a key ingredient of cannabis, for medical use; and four states – Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington – plus the District of Columbia have approved the use of marijuana for recreational purposes.

Another five states (California, Nevada, Arizona, Maine, and Massachusetts) will vote on recreational marijuana use in November. And four more states will vote on medical marijuana in November (Arkansas, Florida, Montana, Missouri).

As has reported, 13 percent of adults in the United States say they currently smoke marijuana, nearly double the 7 percent who admitting to smoking pot just three years ago, according to a recent Gallup Poll found.

DEA announced it has changed its policy by expanding the number of DEA-registered marijuana manufacturers to allow for more research. As of August 11, the University of Mississippi, which operates under a contract with NIDA, is the only one allowed to conduct FDA-authorized research on marijuana.

— Written by Alex Grubbs