Report: FDA Advises DEA on Reclassifying Marijuana — But to What?

The United States government still considers cannabis to be one of the deadliest substances known to man. Repeated efforts by drug reform advocates to remove marijuana from the Drug Enforcement Administration's list of “Schedule I” controlled substances have thus far been repeatedly stymied.

Change may come from within. According to a letter from the Justice Department to Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer, obtained by's Tom Angell, the Food and Drug Administration — which would regulate weed if and when the magic plant ever becomes legal at the federal level — has given the DEA guidance on whether cannabis should be “reclassified under federal law.”

That's exciting news. Because although it's unclear where the FDA thinks cannabis should be classified, the drug is in a good position in Schedule I: there's nowhere to go but down.

[jump] Cannabis has been a Schedule I controlled substance — the most dangerous, most medically worthless — since the Controlled Substances Act went into effect under Richard Nixon. Other Schedule I drugs include heroin. Cocaine, crystal methamphetamine, PCP — these are all Schedule II. Yes, kids: Uncle Sam would apparently prefer you snort cocaine than dare breathe the foul fumes of cannabis sativa.

There's already an effort afoot to reclassify cannabis to Schedule II — which would allow doctors to prescribe it and allow for easier access for researchers — via the U.S. Senate's CARERS Act. That bill has yet to be called for a hearing, which means it is for the moment DOA.

But apparently there are at least two others. One is a petition filed by the then-governors of Rhode Island and Washington. This is one of the petitions that is under review by the DEA, which received data and a recommendation on where to reschedule cannabis from the FDA, according to the letter.

This is both encouraging and annoying for drug reform types. In communications with members of Congress in November, Justice Department officials made no mention of the existence of a rescheduling recommendation, noted. 

Double-talk aside, the DEA is supposed to make the recommendations and its eventual decision public via the Federal Register at an unspecified future date. Who knows: 2016 could really be the year things move on marijuana. 

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