The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) is currently looking to reclassify cannabis, yet again. In a letter to Congressman Earl Blumenauer, D-OR., the Attorney General’s office has officially confirmed that the DEA is going through the painstakingly slow process of reviewing scientific evidence to determine what we already know, that yes, cannabis does have medicinal applications and should be removed from schedule I in the Controlled Substance Act (CSA).
Although the DEA confirmed that they are in the review process, they do not have to give any information about the process until their evaluation is complete.
To reclassify a drug in the CSA, there are strict guidelines to follow. One of the steps involves the DEA requesting a recommendation from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), who give the DEA a scientific and medical evaluation. In some cases, the HHS may even be the party who sends the DEA a petition.
According to the letter from the Assistant Attorney General, which is vague to say the least, the DEA has requested a recommendation from the HHS and stated that they “recently received the HHS scientific and medical evaluations as well as a scheduling recommendation that the HHS prepared in response to the aforementioned petitions.”
Without further detail, the letter continued with explaining why cannabis is still classified as schedule I with frustrating reasoning. Strangely, when comparing cannabis to cocaine and methamphetamine, they state, “placement of a substance in schedule I versus schedule II is based upon a ‘currently accepted medical use’ and is not based upon ‘dangerousness.'” This shows how the federal government sees cocaine as having more medical value than cannabis because they “are contained in pharmaceutical drugs that have been approved by the FDA.” This seems like very obscure reasoning when Americans believe that sugar is more harmful than cannabis.
The DEA has been asked to reclassify cannabis multiple times and as recently as 2011. The 2011 petition wanted to see cannabis reclassified on the grounds that it has medicinal uses and is much less dangerous than opiates and other schedule II drugs. It is unclear if this petition has been resolved and may still be pending with the DEA. In fact, it could even be one of the petitions the DEA vaguely referred to in their letter to Rep. Blumenauer.
The DEA needs to reclassify cannabis. It has been clear for years that it is one of the safest drugs to use medicinally and recreationally, and as long as federal restrictions are attached the government continues to restrict jobs and create more criminals. If the DEA can finally see past their failed War on Drugs, they could switch the current situation and create jobs while reducing prison populations and throwing out the ridiculous idea of mandatory minimum sentences.
With countries like Canada and Colombia working toward full legalisation, America is lagging behind the worldwide trend of policy change, forcing each state to painstakingly make their own decisions to legalise, and crippling their policies once they do.
Hopefully with new policies coming from Washington like the CARERS Act and Senator Bernie Sanders' bill to reclassify cannabis, the DEA will have to speed up the process, whether they want to or not.
As the waiting game continues with the DEA, they did announce that they are easing the restrictions on FDA-approved CBD clinical trials. This came shortly after the letter to Rep. Blumenauer and hopefully is an indication that they are moving forward with reclassification.
Unfortunately, only the DEA actually knows what is going on, and continue to keep us in the dark.