Despite earlier reports that the DEA was set to reschedule cannabis this month, the agency has announced that they will retain cannabis as a Schedule 1 controlled substance, while easing restrictions on those wanting to research the plant.
In reaching its conclusion, the DEA says that an evaluation shows that cannabis has no ‘‘currently accepted medical use’”, noting that “the drug’s chemistry is not known and reproducible; there are no adequate safety studies; there are no adequate and well-controlled studies proving efficacy; the drug is not accepted by qualified experts; and the scientific evidence is not widely available.”
They continue; “There is no evidence that there is a consensus among qualified experts that marijuana is safe and effective for use in treating a specific, recognized disorder… At this time, the known risks of marijuana use have not been shown to be outweighed by specific benefits in well-controlled clinical trials that scientifically evaluate safety and efficacy.”
Despite their unwillingness to reschedule cannabis, the DEA did note that the plant is not a gateway drug, saying that “Little evidence supports the hypothesis that initiation of marijuana use leads to an abuse disorder with other illicit substances”.
Mason Tvert of the Marijuana Policy Project calls the decision “mind-boggling”, saying it is “intellectually dishonest and completely indefensible.” He continues by saying that “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.”
The DEA did say that they would increase the number of locations able to grow cannabis for research purposes.
“We are pleased the DEA is finally going to end NIDA’s monopoly on the cultivation of marijuana for research purposes”, says Tvert. “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.”
He continues; “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.”