DEA denies petition to reschedule cannabis but relaxes restriction on research

August 12, 2016
Area(s) of Interest: Public Health 

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) denied a request to remove cannabis from its schedule 1 classification, despite the fact that 25 states, including California, have approved the medical use of cannabis for a growing list of health conditions.

According to the DEA, cannabis remains a schedule I controlled substance because it does not meet the criteria for currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, there is a lack of accepted safety for its use under medical supervision, and it has a high potential for abuse.

However, recognizing that there is growing public interest in expanding research into the potential medical utility of cannabis and its chemical constituents, DEA also announced a policy change that could spur broad scientific study of cannabis.

The DEA policy change is designed to foster research by expanding the number of DEA-registered cannabis manufacturers. Since 1968, the University of Mississippi has been the only institution in the United States authorized to grow the drug for use in medical studies, limiting the supply and variation of strains for federally approved research purposes.

DEA’s new policy will allow additional entities to apply to become registered with DEA so that they may grow and distribute cannabis for federally funded or other academic researchers, as well as for strictly commercial endeavors funded by the private sector and aimed at drug product development. This new policy creates a legal pathway for commercial enterprises to produce cannabis for product development.

The California Medical Association (CMA) in 2011 published a white paper on cannabis that found that physicians need access to better research on the drug, which has not been possible under current drug policy. The paper, available here, is a thoughtful study and response to an important issue, continuing CMA’s tradition of providing guidance on public health.


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