Rescheduling Cannabis Could Usher In Age Of 'Evidence-Based' Medical Cannabis Use

By Victoria Kim 04/14/16
Currently, cannabis is in Schedule I alongside LSD and heroin
Rescheduling Cannabis Could Usher In Age Of 'Evidence-Based” Medical Cannabis Use
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In the next few months, the federal government will decide whether to remove cannabis from the “most dangerous” drugs category. Currently, cannabis is in Schedule I alongside LSD and heroin under the 1970 Controlled Substances Act. Drugs in Schedule I are defined as having no medical benefit and a high potential for abuse. 

The impending decision was announced in a letter issued last week by officials from the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Office of National Drug Control Policy. “DEA understands the widespread interest in the prompt resolution to these petitions and hopes to release its determination in the first half of 2016,” reads the letter obtained by the Huffington Post.

Removing cannabis from Schedule I would expand opportunities for research for those wishing to study its medical potential. The 25-page letter acknowledged that the currently cumbersome and “time consuming” nature of conducting cannabis research in the U.S. “can be a disincentive to conducting research in this area.” 

There are now 23 states and the District of Columbia where medical cannabis is legal, with more on the way. In these states, cannabis is prescribed for a range of conditions (depending on the state) including cancer, glaucoma, seizure disorders, multiple sclerosis and PTSD, to name a few.

So far, the FDA has approved two cannabis-based medications to treat nerve pain and to stimulate appetite in cancer patients. By reclassifying cannabis and facilitating more research of the plant, researchers would be able to explore marijuana’s effectiveness for other conditions and “move toward a more evidence-based use of medical marijuana,” Dr. Kevin Hill, who published a medical marijuana review in the Journal of the American Medical Association last year, told ABC News.

The federal government’s five drug categories range from Schedule I (considered the most dangerous) to Schedule V. The DEA has rejected two previous petitions to reclassify cannabis in 2001 and 2011. As we near the halfway point of 2016, marijuana reform advocates are hoping the third time’s a charm.

“If the DEA is willing to put science ahead of ideology and set policy accordingly, as President Obama has often said his administration would behave, they have no choice but to reschedule marijuana,” Tom Angell, founder of Marijuana Majority, tells The Fix.

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr