While the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has spent decades spewing the swill of prohibitionists in an effort to keep the cannabis plant confined to its Schedule I classification under the Controlled Substances Act, documents obtained by the Huffington Post indicate that the agency may finally be prepared to reschedule the herb.
In response to a letter submitted last year by Senator Elizabeth Warren and seven other lawmakers calling for the federal government to unleash some of the restrictions that continue to make it difficult to study the medicinal benefits of the cannabis plant, the DEA has revealed that it will make a decision on whether to reschedule marijuana before the end of summer 2016.
“DEA understands the widespread interest in the prompt resolution to these petitions and hopes to release its determination in the first half of 2016,” the 25-page document reads.
Although the DEA’s letter, which is signed by acting Administrator Chuck Rosenberg, does not suggest the inevitability of a Schedule downgrade, there is now more pressure than ever before for the agency to deliver a favorable result on the issue.
In addition to a legion of federal lawmakers demanding the Schedule downgrade of a substance that millions of Americans are now permitted under state law to use for medical purposes, there has been a major push over the past few months for President Obama to initiate the rescheduling process before he leaves the White House.
Most recently, hundreds of cannabis advocates protested in the streets of the nation’s capital with a 50-foot inflatable joint branded with the message “Obama, Reschedule Cannabis Now.” However, since the beginning of 2016, President Obama has maintained that he has no plans to get into marijuana reform before the end of his term.
Nevertheless, the latest word from the DEA may suggest that big changes are on the horizon.
According to the letter, the agency will take into consideration the latest findings from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration stemming from the agency’s eight-factor analysis of the medical and scientific evidence supporting cannabis as a safe and effective drug. But the DEA made no mention as to whether the FDA review was in favor or against rescheduling.
In 2014, the FDA announced that it would conduct a full appraisal of the cannabis plant to evaluate whether it should be reclassified under a lesser Schedule. The agency, which currently “has not approved marijuana as a safe and effective drug,” did not give any indication how long the process would take, only that the agency would issue a final scheduling proposal after the assessment was complete. This verdict will be crucial in the DEA’s upcoming decision.
As Matt Ferner of the Huffington Post points out, this is not the first time the DEA has considered bumping marijuana from the same Schedule classification as heroin. Unfortunately, the nation’s leading drug enforcers have always decided that it continues to be in the best interest of public safety for marijuana to maintain its Schedule I status.
(Photo Courtesy of Jim Ross/Toronto Star)