A single source article released in the Santa Monica Observer got the internet buzzing with marijuana news as it reported that, according to an anonymous lawyer for the DEA, the DEA would make marijuana a Schedule II drug on August 1, 2016. Marijuana is currently a Schedule I drug, meaning it is completely illegal on a federal level. If marijuana classification were changed so that it became a Schedule II drug, it would instantly become legal nationwide, so long as a person had a prescription.
DEA Shoots Down Claim
It turns out that the article was wrong, as a spokesman for the DEA, Rusty Payne, told Pain News Network, “We don’t have anything official to report.” He went on to speak about a letter sent to the DEA by Sen. Elizabeth Warren and 7 other senators, petitioning the DEA to reclassify marijuana. The DEA responded to that letter by saying they are planning to have a decision made regarding this issue, mid-year.
Payne continued, “And in that letter we said we hoped to have a decision around July first. That’s certainly not a deadline, that’s just neighborhood ballpark, around that time. So people are getting antsy as the time is getting nearer.” Payne added that the DEA cannot make the ruling to change marijuana classification on their own. He explained, “The agency that determines whether or not something is a medicine is the FDA, not the DEA. That’s why we have to rely on their portion of an in-depth study to determine whether or not something should be rescheduled or essentially determined to be a medicine. And if the FDA rules something is not a medicine, we’re bound by that. We cannot move it ourselves. We can’t overrule or override FDA on that.”
Jury Still Out on Marijuana Classification
The official statement released by DEA, read; “The DEA has undertaken the review along with the Department of Health and Human Services according to the process established in the Controlled Substances Act. When the review is complete, DEA will make the full text of the decisions publicly available.”
So while the article itself contained inaccurate information, the DEA is currently deciding on whether or not to reclassify or declassify marijuana. In 2011, when another petition was made, they ruled against changing the classification. Although as medical marijuana is now legal in 25 states, and recreational marijuana is legal in 5 states, with 6 more in the process of voting on legalization for adult use this year, it’s unlikely that the DEA will keep the classification the same.
Schedule II Damaging to the Marijuana Industry?
Despite the positive changes that may come for reclassification or declassification for those in need of the medicinal benefits of marijuana, the cannabis industry would be impacted by the change. If it becomes a Schedule II drug, the entire industry would have to undergo intense inspection and regulation by the FDA and big pharmaceutical companies would be able to enter the industry. Pharmacies like CVS and Rite-Aid could sell pill or edible forms of THC, affecting the medical dispensaries. Since pharmaceuticals are not taxed, there would also be a drastic loss to state tax revenue. On top of this, recreational marijuana businesses would still be trafficking a Schedule II drug. “I don’t see Schedule II as being any help here for the existing cannabis industry at all. This is the red carpet for Purdue Pharma and Pfizer to enter the industry,” Miami lawyer, Andrew Ittleman, whose law firm consults with marijuana businesses, stated to Inc.
Altering marijuana classification would make it regulated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. With this option people could access the herb, medicinally and recreationally, but the cannabis industry would have to comply with federal law, regarding safety, business practices and use. With pressure on the DEA to make a decision, we will all soon know what the future of the marijuana industry holds.