Will the DEA Reclassify Marijuana or is it Smoke and Mirrors?

Activists have long protested against the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) harsh classification for marijuana. After a 2015 letter from eight U.S. senators, the DEA has stated that they will make a decision about whether or not to reclassify marijuana in the first half of the year.

Marijuana is currently classified as a Schedule 1 drug, the highest of five categories in the DEA’s system. A Schedule I classification means that the DEA feels the drug has the highest risk for abuse and no “current acceptable” medical usage. Other Schedule I drugs include LSD and heroin.

Since medical marijuana is being used in many capacities across the U.S., Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and seven of her fellow senators banded together to write a letter to the DEA in 2015 asking them to research the medicinal side of marijuana.

Warren’s Argument that the DEA Reclassify Marijuana

The letter pointed out that though millions of Americans are legally allowed to use medical marijuana in their states, the federal government emphasizes research on the dangers of marijuana rather than the potential health benefits.

The DEA has responded to the 2015 letter with a letter of their own. While they make no promises and show no indication of whether or not they will reclassify marijuana, their letter did say that they hope to make a decision on the matter by the middle of 2016.

The Huffington Post published the DEA’s 25 page letter, which details the marijuana that grows from the only federally supported marijuana garden at the University of Mississippi.

However, even in the DEA’s letter, it seems that the federal government may focus on marijuana’s “health risks” first over its medical usages.

“We support research of marijuana and its components that complies with applicable laws and regulations to advance our understanding about the health risks and potential therapeutic benefits of medications using marijuana or its components or derivatives,” the letter states.

FDA Recommendations

The letter mentions that U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has reviewed medical research regarding marijuana’s effectiveness and safety. Though the letter says that the FDA has provided the DEA its recommendation regarding rescheduling, the letter does not unveil what that recommendation is.

Marijuana activists continue to vocalize their support of changing marijuana’s harsh classification. Tom Angell, the founder of a marijuana reform group called Marijuana Majority, said in a statement that there is “absolutely no reason” that marijuana should still be classified as a Schedule I drug.

“Almost half the states in the country have medical cannabis laws and major groups like the American Nurses Association and the American College of Physicians are on board,” Angell said.

Marijuana legislation has come a long way at the state level, but federal legislation has moved much slower. Rescheduling marijuana could be a major step in the right direction for marijuana supporters, researchers and activists.

If the DEA does change marijuana’s classification, it could lead to more federal grow facilities and additional research on marijuana’s medicinal properties.

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