Although the cannabis community has been waiting all summer long for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to announce that it was finally exercising some common sense by downgrading the Schedule I classification of the cannabis plant to a ranking less threatening to the grand scheme of public health and safety, a recent report from NPR indicates that the federal government’s anti-drug henchman have made the decision to continue defining marijuana as a substance that is just as dangerous as heroin.
On Wednesday, reports began to surface that the DEA was preparing to announce its long-awaited rescheduling decision for marijuana. However, the agency fed a story to the New York Times that suggested that its verdict had nothing to do with the fabled reschedule, but a separate issue altogether that was intended to allow more universities to get into the business of cultivating cannabis for research purposes. The Times’ report went on to say that while the DEA was tossing around the idea of removing the herb from its list of the most dangerous drugs in the world, “this week, the agency did not take such a step.”
But come to find out that was all just hype, as a report from the folks at NPR would soon reveal a discussion with acting DEA administrator Chuck Rosenberg, who told the news source that the agency had denied the rescheduling requests submitted by a couple of Democratic governors because the federal government was unable to determine that cannabis did, in fact, come with some therapeutic benefit. It seems that the recommendation provided last year by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was that cannabis has “no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.”
Interestingly, Rosenberg wants the cannabis community to know that the DEA’s decision to continue labeling marijuana as one of the most harmful substances known to man has nothing to do with the fact that cannabis has never contributed to the death of a single person.
“This decision isn’t based on danger,” he told NPR. “This decision is based on whether marijuana, as determined by the FDA, is a safe and effective medicine… and it’s not.”
There was apparently a letter fired off to the lawmakers who petitioned the federal drug agency for the rescheduling that said, “Evaluating the safety and effectiveness of drugs is a highly specialized endeavor,” and that the opinions of doctors all across the nation carried no weight in the decision to continue classifying marijuana a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act.
What appears to be true is that the DEA is gearing up to officially announce that it will expand the amount of federally regulated cannabis to be grown in the United States for research purposes beyond the grips of the University of Mississippi. Although it is not known exactly which universities old Uncle Sam plans to let into his pot cultivation game, there does not appear to be any limits on the number of potential cultivators that could qualify under the updated policy.
Many researchers have complained in the past that the University of Mississippi’s monopoly on federal pot cultivation was preventing them from accomplishing any real work.
“If you were a researcher who thought a product with high THC would help someone with a painful cancer, you were out of luck,” John Hudak, a senior fellow at the Brooking Institution, explained to the Times. “You couldn’t access high THC marijuana in the same way you could buy it [legally] in a market in Colorado.”
Rosenberg told NPR that as long as all of the new policies regarding marijuana research go off in a suitable manner, the agency might eventually reconsider its decision to reschedule the cannabis plant.
“As long as folks abide by the rules, and we’re going to regulate that, we want to expand the availability, the variety, the type of marijuana available to legitimate researchers,” Rosenberg told NPR. “If our understanding of the science changes, that could very well drive a new decision.”
National cannabis reform advocacy groups were clinched-fisted Wednesday night by the time it was revealed that the DEA was, in fact, passing on the opportunity to downgrade the herb to at least a Schedule II.
“It’s really sad that DEA has chosen to continue decades of ignoring the voices of patients who benefit from medical marijuana,” Tom Angell, chairman of the Marijuana Majority, told HIGH TIMES. “President Obama always said he would let science — and not ideology — dictate policy, but in this case his administration is upholding a failed drug war approach instead of looking at real, existing evidence that marijuana has medical value.
“This unfortunate decision only further highlights the need for Congress to pass legislation curtailing the ability of DEA and other federal agencies to interfere with the effective implementation of state marijuana laws,” he continued. “A clear and growing majority of American voters support legalizing marijuana outright and the very least our representatives should do is let states implement their own policies, unencumbered by an outdated ‘Reefer Madness’ mentality that some in law enforcement still choose to cling to.”
As it stands, the only hope for a less restrictive national marijuana policy is for the DEA and FDA to come to terms on whether cannabis is medicine or for Congressional leaders and the President of the United States to stop pussyfooting around and pass legislation that liberates the leaf once and for all.
But for now, not much is changing with respect to the cannabis plant.