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“DEA Will Not Reschedule Marijuana”

DEA Chronicles By Shannon F. O'Boye

Marijuana is less dangerous than some substances in other schedules, but it will stay in Schedule I for now, DEA said Thursday. The agency also said that it supports marijuana research, is developing an online application system to apply for Schedule I research registrations, and will allow more manufacturers to grow marijuana for research.

DEA says FDA analysis shows marijuana’s medical effectiveness has not been proven

In a letter to the governors of Rhode Island and Washington and a resident of New Mexico, who had asked that marijuana be removed from Schedule I, DEA Acting Administrator Chuck Rosenberg said it is wrong to think of the federal drug schedules “as an escalating ‘danger’ scale,” like the Richter scale for earthquakes. Instead, he said, the schedules are determined by statutory criteria based on medical and scientific evidence.

DEA cannot reschedule marijuana, Rosenberg said, because an analysis by FDA and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (“NIDA”) showed marijuana’s effectiveness in treating medical conditions has not been proven; it has a high potential for abuse; and it lacks accepted safety for use under medical supervision. DEA’s full responses to the rescheduling petitions are available here and here.

DEA’s decision to keep marijuana in the class of drugs with “no currently accepted medical use” puts the federal government at odds with 25 states and the District of Columbia, all of which have passed laws allowing the use of marijuana for medical purposes.

Rosenberg said that marijuana must be studied further in scientifically-valid, well-controlled clinical trials under investigational new drug applications. He also said that the drug approval process is the proper way to assess whether a product derived from marijuana or its constituent parts is safe and effective for medical use.

DEA will increase the number of authorized marijuana manufacturers that supply researchers

Also on Thursday, DEA announced a policy change that will expand the number of DEA-registered marijuana manufacturers. The move could provide researchers with a more varied and robust supply of marijuana. Currently, only the University of Mississippi is authorized to grow marijuana for the 350 individuals and institutions registered to research marijuana, marijuana extracts, derivatives, and tetrahydrocannabinols (“THC”). Research is being conducted on marijuana’s effectiveness in treating conditions such as epilepsy and chronic pain, among others.

“[W]e will – as we have for many years – support and promote legitimate research regarding marijuana and its constituent parts,” Rosenberg wrote in the letter. He pledged that DEA will work with NIDA to ensure that there is a “sufficient supply of marijuana and its derivatives (in terms of quantity and the variety of chemical constituents) to support legitimate research needs.”

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