DEA Denies State Requests to Reclassify Marijuana

Megan Brooks

August 11, 2016

The US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has denied two petitions to reschedule marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) from Schedule I to II.

In 2011, the governors of two states, Rhode Island and Washington, petitioned the DEA to have marijuana and "related items" removed from Schedule I of the CSA and rescheduled as medical cannabis in Schedule II, on the assertion that cannabis has accepted medical use; is safe for use under medical supervision; and, when used for medical purposes, has a relatively low potential for abuse, especially in comparison with other Schedule II drugs.

In response to the petitions, the DEA requested a scientific and medical evaluation and scheduling recommendation from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which was conducted by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in consultation with the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

"Based on the legal standards in the CSA, marijuana remains a Schedule I controlled substance because it does not meet the criteria for 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," the DEA said in a statement released today.

"The DEA and the FDA continue to believe that scientifically valid and well-controlled clinical trials conducted under investigational new drug applications are the most appropriate way to conduct research on the medicinal uses of marijuana," the DEA said.

"Furthermore, DEA and FDA believe that the drug approval process is the most appropriate way to assess whether a product derived from marijuana or its constituents is safe and effective and has an accepted medical use."

Push to Expand Marijuana Research

The DEA also announced a policy change designed to foster research by expanding the number of DEA-registered marijuana manufacturers. This change should provide researchers with "a more varied and robust supply of marijuana," the agency said.

Currently, the University of Mississippi, operating under a contract with NIDA, is the only supplier authorized to produce marijuana to supply by researchers in the United States. The DEA's new policy will allow additional entities to apply to become registered with DEA so that they may grow and distribute marijuana for FDA-authorized research purposes.

The DEA said this change illustrates their "commitment to working together with the FDA and NIDA to facilitate research concerning marijuana and its components."

According to the DEA, there are currently 350 individuals registered to conduct research on marijuana and its components. The agency said it has approved every application for registration submitted by researchers seeking to use NIDA-supplied marijuana to conduct research that the HHS has determined to be "scientifically meritorious."

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