DEA: No Schedule Change for Marijuana

By Pat Anson, Editor

After weeks of rumors about a major change in policy, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has announced that it will not reclassify marijuana as a Schedule II controlled substance, a move that would have essentially made medical marijuana legal in all 50 states.

Marijuana will remain classified as Schedule I drug – along with other illegal drugs such as heroin and LSD – meaning it has “no currently accepted medical use.”

"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. And it's not," Chuck Rosenberg, acting administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration told NPR.

The DEA did say it would loosen the rules to make marijuana more available for research, allowing researchers to register with the agency to “grow and distribute marijuana for FDA-authorized research.” Until now, only the University of Mississippi has held a license to grow marijuana for research purposes.

"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."

Although still technically illegal under federal law, 25 states and the District of Columbia have approved the use of medical marijuana.  Colorado and Washington have also legalized it for recreational use.

Earlier this summer, the Santa Monica Observer and the Denver Post published reports speculating that marijuana would soon be rescheduled. The Observer even set a date for the announcement – August 1st – and cited an unnamed “Los Angeles based DEA Attorney” as the source of the information.

The two stories fueled rampant speculation in blogs and on social media that a rescheduling of marijuana was imminent. even published its own take on the rumors, calling them “unproven.”

Canadians Can Grow Their Own

The DEA’s announcement came the same day Health Canada said it would allow Canadians to start growing their own marijuana when it updates regulations governing Canada’s medical cannabis program on August 24.

On that date, Canadians who have been authorized by their doctor to use cannabis for medical purposes will be able to produce a limited amount of cannabis or designate someone to produce it for them, provided they register with Health Canada.  Cannabis users will also continue to have the option of purchasing cannabis from one of the 34 producers licensed by Health Canada.

Additional information on how to register and legally purchase starting materials for marijuana cultivation will be available on Health Canada's website on August 24.