DEA Reaffirms ‘Flat Earth’ Position With Regard To Scheduling Marijuana

Washington, DC: The United States Drug
Enforcement Administration (DEA) has rejected a pair of administrative rescheduling
petitions challenging the federal classification of cannabis as a
Schedule I controlled substance with no accepted medical utility.
The decision continues to classify marijuana in the same category
as heroin.

However, in a separate announcement, the agency said that it is
adopting policy changes designed to expand the production of
research-grade cannabis for FDA-approved clinical protocols.

Presently, any clinical trial involving cannabis must access
source material cultivated at the University of Mississippi – an arbitrary
prohibition that is not in place for other controlled substances.
Today, the agency announced for the first time that it will
consider applications from multiple parties, including private
entities, to produce marijuana for FDA-approved research protocols
as well as for “commercial product development.” Ironically, this
change was
initially recommended
by the DEA’s own administrative law judge
in 2007, but that decision was ultimately
rejected by the agency
in 2011.

Commenting on the DEA’s actions, NORML Deputy Director Paul
Armentano said: “While this announcement is a significant step
toward better facilitating and expanding clinical investigations
into cannabis’ therapeutic efficacy, ample
scientific evidence already exists
to remove cannabis from its
schedule I classification and to acknowledge its relative safety
compared to other scheduled substances, like opioids, and
unscheduled substances, such as alcohol. Ultimately, the federal
government ought to remove cannabis from the Controlled
Substances Act altogether
in a manner similar to alcohol and
tobacco, thus providing states the power to establish their own
marijuana regulatory policies free from federal intrusion.”

He added: “Since the DEA has failed to take such action, then it
is incumbent that members of Congress act swiftly to amend
cannabis’ criminal status in a way that comports with both public
and scientific opinion. Failure to do so continues the federal
government’s ‘Flat Earth’ position. It willfully ignores the
well-established therapeutic properties associated with the plant
and it ignores the laws in 26 states
recognizing marijuana’s therapeutic efficacy.”

A recent review of FDA-approved clinical studies evaluating the
safety and efficacy of herbal cannabis concluded: “Based on
evidence currently available the Schedule I classification is not
tenable; it is not accurate that cannabis has no medical value, or
that Information on safety is lacking.”

Added Armentano: “The DEA’s decision is strictly a political
one. There is nothing scientific about willful ignorance.”

The DEA has previously rejected several other rescheduling
petitions, including a 2002 petition filed by a coalition of marijuana law
reform and health advocacy organizations, and a 1972 petition filed
by NORML. The petitions that triggered this latest DEA action were
filed in 2009 by a nurse practitioner and in
2011 by then-Govs. Christine Gregoire of Washington and Lincoln
Chafee of Rhode Island.

For more information, please contact Paul Armentano, NORML
Deputy Director, at:
paul@norml.org.