The Drug Enforcement Administration says it will be making a decision in the next several months that could benefit both the suppliers of marijuana and those that have lighting up a bowl for decades, despite its legal status.
The DEA hasn’t been the only administration talking about the legalization of weed–recently, advocates for its legalization met with President Obama’s administration in Washington DC to discuss law reform. This gives stoners and the disabled alike reason to look forward to future laws being put in place in 2016 for their benefit. Not only that, but advocates have opened the eyes of many government officials, those that want to improve the economy and lessen the national debt. Colorado and Oregon have proven this to be overwhelmingly possible.
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Cannabis Currently a Schedule I Narcotic
In a memo to lawmakers earlier this month, the DEA announced plans to decide “in the first half of 2016” whether or not it will reschedule marijuana, according to The Washington Post. Cannabis is now listed under the Controlled Substances Act as a Schedule 1 drug, a categorization it shares with other drugs, such as heroin and LSD, which the U.S. government defines as “the most dangerous drugs” that have “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”
Activists’ pressure appears to be mounting in the beltway. Responding to lawmakers’ questions, the Drug Enforcement Administration has said it may issue a new recommendation on the scheduling of cannabis by Summer. Last week, the DEA also approved a rare trial of whole plant cannabis to treat PTSD. According to reports, Michael Botticelli, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, stressed to UN Officials last week that “law enforcement efforts should focus on criminal organizations — not on people with substance use disorders who need treatment and recovery support services.”
DEA Has Final Say
The DEA has final approval over cannabis’ “schedule 1” status — meaning they believe it has no medical use, and a high potential for abuse. About 56 percent of doctors disagree and support its full legalization, a Medscape survey found. About 700,000 Americans will be arrested this year for cannabis crimes, while research into pot’s medical value is blockaded, activists note.
“DCMJ appreciates greatly the invitation by the Obama administration to begin an educated and passionate dialogue into the need to remove cannabis from the list of Schedule One drugs,” Eidinger said in a statement. “Thanks to Schedule One of the Controlled Substances Act, Americans, especially people of color, are needlessly incarcerated, and critical medical research into the healing properties of cannabis is placed on hold for no good reason.”
Advocates for marijuana legalization have long argued that the drug should be rescheduled, considering marijuana’s relative safety when compared to a drug like heroin, which caused roughly 11,000 overdose deaths in 2014, according to the National Institutes of Health.
The argument for rescheduling marijuana also revolves largely around the drug’s potential for medical use, as 23 states have already legalized medical pot to treat a variety of maladies—from cancer to chronic pain—and U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy even admitted last year that “marijuana can be helpful” for certain medical conditions.
Changes Could Impact Millions
Should the DEA decide to reschedule marijuana, bumping it down with supposedly less dangerous drugs such as cocaine (Schedule 2) or ketamine (Schedule 3), the move would likely open the door for expanded research of cannabis’ potential for medical applications. As it stands, the government has an exclusive contract with a University of Mississippi research lab to grow marijuana for the purpose of medical research, and the DEA notes in its letter that the government supplied an average of just nine researchers with marijuana for research purposes per year between 2010 and 2015.
Rescheduling could also have a major financial effect on the legal marijuana industry, which some estimates suggest will hit $6.7 billion in sales this year while expanding to nearly $22 billion by 2020. While more and more states have voted to legalize marijuana in some form over the past several years, the drug remains very much illegal on the federal level—an inconvenient fact for a rapidly expanding industry that has led to a range of issues for marijuana-related businesses, from a lack of banking options to federal tax issues.