The DEA has released a very long, detailed letter to lawmakers stating that they are planning to decide on whether to reduce the marijuana classification from Schedule 1 in the first half of 2016. A Schedule 1 drug classification means that marijuana is listed as one of the most dangerous drugs with the highest potential for abuse and considered to have no medical value, along with heroin and LSD. Schedule 1 drugs are the most regulated drugs, considered to be worse than prescription painkillers, which incidentally have killed over 165,000 patients since 1999.
The Changing Public Image of Marijuana in the U.S.
Marijuana has been classified as a Schedule 1 drug since 1970, despite the fact that medical marijuana is helping patients all over the country and is legal in nearly half of the country. At this time, recreational marijuana is legal in 4 states too with more looking to vote to legalize this November. It has been decriminalized in multiple cities as well. Clearly, most of the country is no longer considering it among the most dangerous drugs and millions are benefiting from it medicinally.
A Series of Petitions to the DEA
A petition to the DEA was started in 2011 by 2 individuals who were governors at the time, Christine Gregoire of Washington and Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island. Medical organizations such as the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics have also requested that marijuana classification be changed. The DEA’s current memo is in response to a letter sent to them in 2015 by 8 Democratic Senators, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren, requesting that serious research into the medicinal benefits of marijuana be undertaken.
The Historic Hardline of the DEA
The DEA has denied previous attempts to reduce marijuana classification but they appear to be taking the matter more seriously this time around, despite the repeated delays they have put on making the decision in the past. At this point in time, with residents willing to move to other states in order to receive treatment that is clearly benefiting them, the medical value of marijuana has achieved more credence than ever befire. How it has remained a Schedule 1 drug, despite the collected evidence thus far, is baffling. According to the DEA, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has conducted their own review and made its own recommendations for how marijuana should be classified but the DEA has yet to release their findings.
Wild West Self-Diagnosis
With so many people now receiving medical marijuana treatment, for illnesses that vary from epilepsy and cancer to PTSD, patients are having questions about the specifics of their conditions. Since there is nowhere near enough official research being done, patients are looking online for medical answers. These issues are part of what prompted the Democratic Senators to reach out to the DEA.
Currently there is only one government sponsored research facility at the University of Mississippi. The process for applying to conduct marijuana research is so complicated that Universities are put off even trying. A study into the effects of marijuana on veterans with PTSD has been trying to take off for over 5 years. Much more research is needed at this time and part of the advancement involves lowering the classification on marijuana in order to remove hurdles for this process.
Reports indicate that we will know by mid-year whether the DEA has decided to shift its stance on the scheduling of marijuana. Since medical marijuana is legal in half the country it seems that a rescheduling, if not a full de-scheduling, of marijuana is long overdue.