DEA Rejects Petition to Reclassify Marijuana, But Will Remove Barrier to Research

Statement From the Marijuana Policy Project Regarding the DEA’s Refusal to Reclassify Marijuana

The agency is expected to announce Thursday that it will increase the supply of marijuana available for research, but will continue to classify the substance under Schedule I — which is reserved for drugs with ‘no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse’ — despite widespread recognition that marijuana has significant medical benefits and poses less potential harm than alcohol and many prescription drugs

WASHINGTON — According to news reports, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) will announce Thursday that it will take steps to increase the supply of marijuana available for research purposes, but it will not remove marijuana from Schedule I — a classification reserved for drugs with “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”

Forty-two states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico and Guam have adopted laws recognizing marijuana’s medical value. A variety of prominent national and state organizations have also formally recognized the medical benefits of marijuana, including the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine, the American Public Health Association, the American College of Physicians, the American Nurses Association, the American Academy of HIV Medicine, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, the Epilepsy Foundation, the British Medical Association, the California Medical Association, and the Texas Medical Association, among many others.

Government reports, research organizations, and studies published in medical and scientific journals have consistently concluded that marijuana is less addictive and less harmful to the body than alcohol. For example, according to a White House-commissioned report released in 1999 by the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine: “[A]lthough [some] marijuana users develop dependence, they appear to be less likely to do so than users of other drugs (including alcohol and nicotine), and marijuana dependence appears to be less severe than dependence on other drugs.”

Statement from Marijuana Policy Project spokesperson Mason Tvert:

“The DEA’s refusal to remove marijuana from Schedule I is, quite frankly, mind-boggling. It is intellectually dishonest and completely indefensible. Not everyone agrees marijuana should be legal, but few will deny that it is less harmful than alcohol and many prescription drugs. It is less toxic, less addictive, and less damaging to the body.

“We are pleased the DEA is finally going to end NIDA’s monopoly on the cultivation of marijuana for research purposes. For decades it has been preventing researchers from exploring the medical benefits of marijuana. It has also stood in the way of any scientific inquiries that might contradict the DEA’s exaggerated claims about the potential harms of marijuana or raise questions about its classification under Schedule I.

“The DEA’s announcement is a little sweet but mostly bitter. Praising them for it would be like rewarding a student who failed an exam and agreed to cheat less on the next one. Removing barriers to research is a step forward, but the decision does not go nearly far enough. Marijuana should be completely removed from the CSA drug schedules and regulated similarly to alcohol.”

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