The DEA Says No To Re-Scheduling Cannabis – And Why That’s Insane
There are sources from the DEA who are saying that the organization is going to release their official response to the request to reschedule cannabis today. They are reported saying they will keep cannabis at Schedule I, but allow more universities (there has only been one single one up to now) to grow the plant for researchers. NPR is quoting the DEA’s chief Chuck Rosenberg on the agency’s motivation saying, “this decision isn’t based on danger. This decision is based on whether marijuana, as determined by the FDA, is a safe and effective medicine,” he said, “and it’s not.” By law the DEA must follow in line with the recommendations of the FDA. The official release from the DEA was reported to be scheduled for today in the Federal Register.
Depending on if you are a glass half full or glass half empty person, you may be able to find the positive in this move by the DEA. Obviously, the fact that they chose to keep cannabis at Schedule I and reaffirm that they, and the FDA, believe cannabis has no accepted medical value plain sucks. If you have not already, please read my blog on how THC is actually scheduled TWICE, once as natural THC at Schedule I, and again as synthetic THC at Schedule III. Yes, I know, mind freakin’ blown! However, the DEA did say they will now start allowing additional locations to cultivate cannabis to be used in legal clinical trials. Up until now, only the University of Mississippi was the single location the DEA allowed to cultivate cannabis. They are reported as saying that they have “never denied” an application by a researcher to use legally cultivated cannabis in a medical study. That is only technically true, as they are one of up to three government bodies a researcher must get approval from prior to being allowed to conduct their study. In addition to the DEA, the FDA must give its blessing to the study, and if it is funded by tax dollars through NIDA they must also approve.
Here is one great example of how the DEA saying they do not hamper research is plain poppycock. If you have read Smoke Signals by Martin A. Lee you would have learned the truth about this topic. There once was a woman named Mary Jane Rathbun who was nicknamed ‘brownie mary’ that inspired a real doctor to research cannabis. That man, Dr. Donald Abrams, wanted to study how cannabis affected AIDS patients and if smoked cannabis or synthetic THC pills helped AIDS patients overcome ‘deadly wasting syndrome’. After hacking through a thicket of regulations and paperwork, he was ultimately denied permission because NIDA would not allow research into the benefits of cannabis, and only the harms of drugs. At the time NIDA’s director Alan Leshner clarified the spirit of the organization saying, “we are the National Institute On Drug abuse, not for Drug abuse.” Here is the kicker, after Dr. Abrams retooled his study to instead focus on proving that cannabis would harm the AIDS patients by compromising their immune systems further, NIDA gave a green light. Not surprisingly, the results showed that cannabis helped patients gain weight without weakening their immune systems.
The other must read for every cannabis advocate is Steve DeAngelo’s The Cannabis Manifesto. In his book he explains their spirit of saying, “NIDA has refused to fund research into the medical benefits of cannabis, claiming its charter prevents it from spending money on anything but the harms of drug use. Even worse, the agency has suppressed promising leads about the therapeutic potential of cannabis for extremely grave diseases like cancer.” Your tax dollars at work folks! If you didn’t already know your tax dollars are hard at work proving only the harms of cannabis, you have been enlightened. While private dollars can fund whatever their owners choose, Newsweek recently took the time to explain why it just doesn’t happen often. They explain that “the current regulations on federal marijuana prohibit providing researchers cannabis that will later be developed for commercial sale, and because any drug derived from cannabis needs to be developed from the exact same source of the plant to meet FDA regulations, pharmaceutical companies don’t have a motive to fund any research using federally grown cannabis—the only legal kind.”
Cannabis should not get a free pass to be rescheduled, the FDA/DEA/NIDA should allow the drug the same privileges of access to research and path to a sellable product as big-pharma drugs have always, and still do get. In short cannabis should go through the same process all FDA-approved drugs do, not around it through its own special path. I hope that this move by the DEA to open up more avenues will allow more researchers access to cannabis. The famous Dr. Sue Sisley, the first doctor to receive approval from all necessary agencies to study PTSD, was fired by the University of Arizona (who I think put their donors’ opinions ahead of science), and her study has been held up waiting for the DEA to pony up the legal cannabis she was approved to receive. By allowing more centers to cultivate legal cannabis for research, doctors like Sisley will be able to have access to the cannabis they need at the potency and strain they request. The big positive to focus on is that there is now a wider road to access for researchers to finally prove, in a way the FDA blesses and approves, that cannabis has medical value and acceptable medical use.
Now that you know your tax dollars are only allowed to research the harms of drugs via NIDA, what will you do? Now that you know the government talks out of both corners of its mouth when discussing the medical value of cannabis, what will you do? The FDA allows INSYS to legally produce synthetic THC and doctors to prescribe it. With their other hand, the government uses the DEA to define natural THC as having no medical value by keeping it as a Schedule I substance. That does not make any sense! Scream the truth from the rooftops people!
Meanwhile, on a super fun note…while the Obama administration is sitting idle and letting this travesty against logic pass, President Obama’s daughter, Malia Obama, was recently caught in Chicago at Lollapalozza on video smoking what is clearly something that looks a lot like a cannabis joint. Her father shouldn’t be too mad, as he experimented with cannabis as a young man himself. How’s that for ironic!!!
What will you do to share the truth that THC is double-classified, your tax dollars are only allowed to research the harms of cannabis via NIDA, and the FDA has dead-end built into the path to FDA-approved cannabis? Tell us in the comments below, or on Facebook!
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What Would Happen if the DEA Reschedules Cannabis This Year?
The DEA will announce whether or not they will reschedule cannabis by “sometime mid-year” from its current Schedule I status to something else. That means the future of cannabis on a federal level could be decided as soon as tomorrow and as late as mid-summer.
This major decision by the DEA, likely influenced by the FDA’s recommendation, involves a thorough process and the insight of NIDA and the CDC in addition to the FDA. While the DEA’s decision and potential rescheduling has garnered plenty of media attention, there hasn’t been enough discussion on exactly what would happen if the DEA does in fact reschedule marijuana.
The pipe dream for cannabis activists and business owners would be for the DEA to simply de-schedule cannabis, thus decriminalizing and liberating the plant. That won’t happen. The more likely scenario will see the DEA rescheduling cannabis from its current Schedule I status to a Schedule II status.
Here’s what that very possible outcome of rescheduling cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule II status would accomplish:
1) Accepted Medical Use & Research: Cannabis’ current Schedule I status does not make it easy and in most cases even possible for researchers to study the marijuana plant’s medical value (particularly with human and not rodent test subjects). Hence, the viable medical research and studies are largely done by private universities aside from the federal government’s grow operation in Mississippi. If cannabis becomes Schedule II, that key unlocks the door for more medical research and studies via legitimate scientific resources. Currently, doctors must go through a thorough process to obtain “special licensing from the DEA” which includes an on-site, “background visit.” The DEA does not hand out those licenses easily. This scheduling change would allow physicians and researchers much easier pipelines to studying the effects of cannabis on different medical conditions. And that could unlock insight into the over 60 compounds in cannabis that go way beyond THC and CBD–compounds which have currently unknown effects. Additionally, the supply of marijuana could come from private sources and a variety of medical marijuana states–so more genetics would be studied.
2) New Company: Along with that medical distinction, cannabis would consequentially find itself associated with less onerous drugs. Rather than grouped with other Schedule I drugs, cannabis would share classification with current Schedule II drugs. That means, on a basic level, that cannabis wouldn’t be considered on the same playing field as Schedule II drugs that include Hallucinogenics (LSD, Peyote, Mescaline, etc.), Opioids, and Opium Derivatives (Heroin). Instead, cannabis would be categorized as a Schedule II drug with known medical use just like Codeine, Morphine, Opium, Cocaine, and other drugs. While surprising that those aforementioned drugs have “known medical use”, their current classification highlights just how bizarre marijuana’s current scheduling is. Fortunately, should this go through, cannabis will no longer be spoken of in the same breath as Heroin.
3) Open the Banks: Despite being medically legal in 23 states (plus D.C.) and legal in four others (plus D.C.) and despite being a $5 billion legal industry, cannabis businesses do not have access to traditional banking services. Thus, marijuana remains a cash business that eschews credit cards. That means cannabis businesses, dispensaries specifically, are at high-risk. The banking issue represents a murky dilemma that some pro-cannabis Senators have tried to solve this riddle by way of a marijuana banking bill. They have failed, in large part, because cannabis is a Schedule I drug. That classification alone blocks the government from seriously considering allowing federal banks to work with cannabis businesses. Moving cannabis away from its nasty association with Heroin and associating it with regulated drugs like Codeine could swing the scales of justice. Last month, Oregon became the first state to pass a banking bill protecting in-state banks that deal with cannabis businesses. The rescheduling of cannabis could allow this to happen not just in state, but on a federal level.
4) FDA Approval: As noted, the FDA is already urging the DEA to make this demonstrative move. Reading between the lines, that’s because marijuana cannot and will not become an FDA approved drug until it moves to Schedule II status. The FDA currently states that while cannabis may indeed have medical value and while it knows many people seek the drug’s approval, there’s not enough scientific research and evidence to approve the drug. As aforementioned, moving cannabis to Schedule II status would vastly increase the amount of research and human studies done with medical cannabis. That step would then pave the way for the FDA to receive enough viable, empirical evidence that cannabis can be an FDA approved drug. Naturally, the arduous process of FDA approval relates directly from the DEA. This is how that process works:
The FDA reviews the IND application and the research protocol submitted by the applicant.
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reviews the registration application filed by the researcher.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) within the National Institutes of Health operates pursuant to the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. NIDA has been designated the responsible agency to supply research-grade marijuana to researchers.
Given the FDA’s decision to ask the DEA to consider this move, it seems likely that the FDA would, once enough data presents itself, ultimately approve cannabis and its derivatives.
5) The End of Prohibition: All of the aforementioned factors would pave the way for the penultimate marijuana move: federal decriminalization and/or legalization. It may take five years. It may take 10 years. It may take 20 years. But if marijuana gets rescheduled, federal legislators will have no choice but to seriously consider legalization. That would mean marijuana could, potentially, cross state lines, be sold online, and be treated like the normalized, modern medical industry it has the wherewithal to be. Furthermore, the end of prohibition and the decriminalization of cannabis would mean no one would senselessly go to jail for selling or smoking this divergent plant. Likewise, police forces and the judicial system would no longer use valuable time and money on persecuting cannabis users and believers. We might not see people dancing and smoking in the streets when this day comes, but it will feel like that on the inside.
Of course, all of this could simply go up in smoke should the DEA decide to stay put. So stay tuned!
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