Marijuana advocates across the United States waited eagerly on bended knee earlier last week upon the news that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was working with the DEA to potentially reschedule marijuana at the national level. However, in the end, it appears the two recommendations under consideration were nothing more than a catalyst for Uncle Sam’s leading drug enforcers to make a slight revision to the regulatory controls surrounding one of the non-intoxicating compounds of the cannabis plant, in an effort to make it easier for Big Pharma to capitalize on prescription forms.
It all started last Wednesday, when Tom Angell, chairman of the Marijuana Majority, got his hands on a document sent by the Justice Department to Congressman Earl Blumenauer, detailing how leading health officials were currently in discussion with the DEA to determine whether marijuana should be reclassified under federal law. Although the letter, which was dated September 30, did not provide any clear indication as to what exactly stands to transpire as a result of the deliberation between the two federal agencies, it did clarify that the “DEA is currently reviewing two petitions to reschedule marijuana in accordance with the [Controlled Substances Act].”
However, the document goes on to say that before any rescheduling could take place, the DEA would need to obtained “a scientific and medical evaluation and scheduling recommendation” from the Department of Health and Human Services, implying a bureaucratic chain of governance behind this simple procedure that would inevitably jam up the entire process for substantial length of time.
Yet, as with any degree of pseudo-optimism written into the headlines of articles suggesting that the war on marijuana is near its end, the average citizen ran with the news of a possible DEA rescheduling as though it had already been carved out in stone. Unfortunately, the promise embedded deep inside the articles that surfaced after Angell’s initial report did not hold true to the great expectations being held by the marijuana community.
It was later revealed through a press release published by the DEA itself that the decision to reschedule, at least for the time being, had been whittled down to merely a slight change in the regulatory restrictions surrounding clinical trials for cannabidiol, otherwise known as CBD. Essentially, the adjustment will allow FDA-approved researchers to receive additional marijuana more expeditiously than in times past.
The agency’s statement says that marijuana is a Schedule I controlled substance because it contains THC, but since “CBD contains less than 1 percent THC and has shown some potential medicinal value,” modifications were made with regard to the compound in an effort to streamline the process for those interested in studying its medical applications.
It should be noted, for the sake of clarity, that this minor alteration to the DEA’s policy has in no way downgraded the Schedule I classification of the cannabis plant or any of its compounds. What it has done, however, is make it easier for those drug companies interested in developing CBD medicine, like GW Pharmaceuticals, to jump through fewer hoops in an effort to bring their product to market in a more timely manner. Unfortunately, the change does nothing to benefit the grand scheme of medical marijuana access across the nation.
There is a possibility that additional reforms are coming as a result of the efforts outlined in the letter sent to Representative Blumenauer. But whether marijuana will be rescheduled, at any level, in 2016 remains to be seen. Considering the baby step mentality of the federal government, it is likely more probable that other minor policy changes will be made to facilitate Big Pharma rather than significant reforms to benefit the medical marijuana sector, as a whole.
What do you think? Do the DEA policy changes in regards to CBD go far enough?