The government refused again Thursday to allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes, reaffirming its conclusion that the drug’s therapeutic value has not been proved scientifically and defying a growing clamor to legalize it for the treatment of a variety of conditions.
In an announcement in the Federal Register and a letter to petitioners, the Drug Enforcement Administration turned 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 precludes doctors from prescribing it.
The decision keeps 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. 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.
“Right now, the science doesn’t support it,” Chuck Rosenberg, acting administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration, said in an interview Thursday. Citing a lengthy analysis conducted by the Food and Drug Administration, he said the decision “is tethered to the science.”
The agency announced one policy change that could increase the amount of research conducted on marijuana: the DEA will expand the number of places allowed to grow marijuana for studies of its value in chronic pain relief, as a treatment for epilepsy and for other purposes. Currently, only the University of Mississippi,which holds an exclusive contract with the National Institute on Drug Abuse, is federally licensed to grow marijuana for research purposes.
The latest development in the 46-year legal and policy battle over the status of marijuana disappointed advocates of looser restrictions on the drug, who had hoped that the government would carve out a special place for marijuana in the controlled-substance 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 as it has in previous reviews, 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.
SOURCE: Lenny Bernstein
The Washington Post