DEA Rejects Proposal to Change Classification of Marijuana

by Brian Williams
PharmD, Research Fellow

Marijuana remains a Schedule I drug

In a letter from Acting Administrator Chuck Rosenberg, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has rejected a proposal to change the federal classification of marijuana from a Schedule I to a Schedule II drug. By keeping it in Schedule I, the DEA is maintaining that marijuana has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision, and a high potential for abuse. As a point of clarification, Mr. Rosenberg mentions that while marijuana is less dangerous than some substances in other schedules, criteria for inclusion in Schedule I is not relative danger, but specific statutory criteria based on medical and scientific evidence.

Continuing medical marijuana research

Currently, there is only one entity authorized to produce marijuana to supply researchers in the United States – the University of Mississippi. The DEA will continue to work with the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) to ensure that there is a sufficient supply of marijuana and its derivatives to support legitimate research needs. This will now include approving additional growers of marijuana to supply researchers. In addition, the DEA is building an online application system for researchers to apply for Schedule I research registrations, including for marijuana, and drafting clear guidance to assist Schedule I researchers in the application process.

If the scientific understanding about marijuana changes, this decision could change as well. The DEA will continue to support and promote legitimate research regarding marijuana and its constituent parts. If FDA-approved clinical trials show safety and efficacy for the treatment of a specific medical condition, that would be seen as a welcome development. The Administration insists that any research be sound, scientific, and rigorous before a product can be authorized for medical use. That is the province of the FDA.

What this means to you:

  • Marijuana is still considered an illicit drug at the federal level
  • Marijuana is not an FDA-approved drug
  • Guidelines do not support its use