Hawaii Cannabis logo

URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v16/n540/a09.html
Newshawk: http://www.drugsense.org/donate.htm
Votes: 0
Pubdate: Thu, 11 Aug 2016
Source: Washington Post (DC)
Copyright: 2016 The Washington Post Company
Website: http://www.washingtonpost.com/
Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/491
Author: Lenny Bernstein


The government on Thursday will refuse again to allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes, reaffirming its conclusion that the drug’s therapeutic value has not been proved scientifically, according to government officials, and defying a growing clamor to legalize it for the treatment of a variety of conditions.

In an announcement scheduled to be in the Federal Register, the Drug Enforcement Administration will turn down requests to remove marijuana from “Schedule I,” which classifies it as a drug with “no currently accepted medical use” in the United States and bars doctors from prescribing it.

The decision will keep the federal government at odds with 25 states and the District of Columbia, which have passed laws allowing medical use of marijuana to some degree.  Some members of Congress have called for its reclassification, and on Wednesday the National Conference of State Legislatures adopted a resolution asking the federal government to remove marijuana from Schedule I.

The DEA will announce one policy change that could increase the amount of research conducted on marijuana, the officials said.  The agency will expand the number of places allowed to grow marijuana for studies of its value in the relief of chronic pain and as a treatment for epilepsy and other purposes.  Currently, only the University of Mississippi, which holds an exclusive contract with the National Institute on Drug Abuse ( NIDA ), is federally licensed to grow marijuana for research.

The announcements will be the latest development in the 46-year legal and policy battle over the status of marijuana.  They are sure to disappoint advocates of looser restrictions on the drug, who had hoped that the government would carve out a special place for marijuana in the controlled-substances regulations or move it to a less tightly regulated category, Schedule II.

In the words of a 2015 Brookings Institution report, a move to Schedule II “would signal to the medical community that [the Food and Drug Administration] and [the National Institutes of Health] are ready to take medical marijuana research seriously, and help overcome a government-sponsored chilling effect on research that manifests in direct and indirect ways.”

But according to government officials, marijuana again failed an analysis conducted by the FDA and NIDA.  The FDA concluded that medical and scientific data do not yet prove that marijuana is safe and effective as a medicine.  Legally, that prohibits the DEA from reclassifying the drug.

“We’re pleased to see that the Obama Administration .  .  .  understands the science the way we and almost every single medical association in the country understand it,” said Kevin Sabet, president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, which opposes loosening restrictions on the drug.

Rep.  Earl Blumenauer ( D-Ore.  ) praised the decision to allow more facilities to cultivate marijuana for research but said the decision doesn’t go far enough.  “This decision .  .  .  is further evidence that the DEA doesn’t get it.  Keeping marijuana at Schedule I continues an outdated, failed approach – leaving patients and marijuana businesses trapped between state and federal laws,” Blumenauer said.

Schedule I drugs – which include LSD and heroin, as well as marijuana – – have “no currently accepted medical use in the United States, a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision, and a high potential for abuse.” Schedule II drugs, such as the powerful narcotic painkillers that have caused an epidemic of addiction over the past decade, have medicinal value but “a high potential for abuse which may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence.” Marijuana was placed in Schedule I in 1970 when Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act.

Research has shown that some components of marijuana have promise as a treatment for epilepsy and chronic pain.  Some people use it to relieve the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, but research has not been done to prove its value for that condition.

Academic researchers have complained that registration and application requirements to work with Schedule I drugs make studying their purported benefits difficult.  But the DEA says the number of researchers registered to study marijuana and its components doubled in the past two years.

The governors of Rhode Island and Washington, and a New Mexico resident, Bryan A.  Krumm, petitioned the DEA to remove marijuana from Schedule I.  The agency most recently rejected a similar request in 2011, touching off a legal battle to force reclassification in which the DEA ultimately prevailed.

It is unclear how many more facilities would be allowed to grow marijuana for research under the new rules.  But the government will signal its intent to end the effective monopoly on cultivation maintained by NIDA and the University of Mississippi, officials said.  That would allow a greater supply and a wider variety of extracts for research.  Growers would apply to the DEA, not to NIDA, for permission to cultivate.

The announcement also contains a “statement of principles” that reminds growers of the provisions of a 2014 law that governs the use of industrial hemp.  The plant is a cannabis variant that contains a low concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the chemical responsible for most of marijuana’s impact on the brain. 

MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom