U.S.: DEA Plans Decision On Rescheduling Marijuana By Mid-Year

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Drug Enforcement Administration plans to decide whether marijuana should be reclassified under federal law "in the first half of 2016," according to a letter from the DEA to senators.

The agency was responding to a 2015 letter from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and seven other Democratic senators urging the federal government to stop blocking research into the medicinal benefits of cannabis.

If marijuana is reclassified at all, it would have to be moved to a "less dangerous" category, because it is currently considered Schedule I under federal law, the category of drugs considered the most dangerous of all. Schedule I drugs, by definition, supposedly have no medical value and a high potential for abuse. The insanity of including cannabis -- which, of course, can be used to treat hundreds of conditions -- should be obvious.

There are five categories (schedules) classifying illegal drugs. Marijuana has been considered Schedule I since Nixon's War On Drugs kicked off in 1971. That means the federal government officially considers marijuana to be just as dangerous as heroin -- and it means the government thinks pot is less dangerous than either cocaine or methamphetamine, both of which are considered Schedule II drugs.

“DEA understands the widespread interest in the prompt resolution to these petitions and hopes to release its determination in the first half of 2016,” DEA said the 25-page letter, obtained by The Huffington Post.

The letter, signed by Acting DEA Administrator Chuck Rosenberg, explains in great detail the marijuana supply available at the University of Mississippi, the federal government’s only sanctioned marijuana garden.

According to the letter, the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has already completed a review of the medical evidence surrounding cannabis and has forwarded a rescheduling recommendation to the DEA. The letter doesn't reveal what the FDA recommended.

This reporter's prediction is that the FDA -- under the close supervision of Big Pharma -- will recommend that cannabis be moved to Schedule II on the Uniform Controlled Substances list, effectively handing its control over to the pharmaceutical giants. What we're seeing here is a money-grab by the big corporations, who become acutely uncomfortable when they see Mom-and-Pop businesses (like medical marijuana dispensaries) cutting into their profits (because cannabis works better than most of the harsh chemical garbage peddled by Big Pharma).

The letter makes one possibly important concession: If demand for research into marijuana’s medical potential were to increase beyond the the University of Mississippi’s supply, DEA said it may consider registering additional growers.

The DEA response is signed by Rosenberg, Sylvia Burwell, secretary of HHS, and Michael Botticelli, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. In addition to Warren, the letter was sent to Democratic Sens. Jeffrey Merkley (Ore.), Ron Wyden (Ore.), Barbara Mikulski (Md.), Edward Markey (Mass.), Barbara Boxer (Calif.), Cory Booker (N.J.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.).

All of those senators except Warren are cosponsors of a 2015 bill introduced to reduce the federal government's ability to crack down on state-legal medical marijuana programs, while also encouraging more research.

There is "absolutely no reason marijuana should remain in Schedule I," according to Tom Angell, founder of Marijuana Majority. "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. He said the Obama administration should use its authority to make the change “before this President leaves office.”

Photo: AMC