A Friendlier 420 Government

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On Tuesday June 24, 2014, HuffPost reported that the Food and Drug Administration is currently reviewing the medical evidence associated with the safety and effectiveness of marijuana in an effort to possibly downgrade the classification of the drug as a Schedule I drug which is the most dangerous. As Matt Ferner explains in the article, FDA To Evaluate Marijuana For Potential Reclassification As Less Dangerous Drug, the recent review of the drug was at the behest of the Drug Enforcement Agency according to the FDA Press Officer, Jeff Ventura. Ventura describes the process to Ferner as follows: “FDA conducts for Health and Human Services a scientific and medical analysis of the drug under consideration, which is currently ongoing. HHS then recommends to DEA that the drug be placed in a given schedule. DEA considers HHS’ analysis, conducts its own assessment, and makes a final scheduling proposal in the form of a proposed rule.”

The United States currently has five schedules for drugs or chemicals to make those drugs. Schedule I covers those drugs the DEA regards as the highest potential for abuse with no medical use such as heroin and LSD. While rescheduling would not legalize marijuana, it could allow for more research into the drug as well as allow banks to feel more secure about lending to state legalize marijuana businesses. During a Friday House Committee hearing on Oversight and Government Reform, FDA Deputy Director Doug Throckmorton stated, “While DEA is the lead federal agency responsible for regulating controlled substances and enforcing the Controlled Substances Act, FDA, working with NIDA, provides scientific recommendations about the appropriate controls for those substances. To make these recommendations, FDA is responsible for preparing what’s called an eight-factor analysis, which is a document that is used to assess how likely a drug is to be abused. There are eight factors the FDA must consider when deciding which schedule marijuana falls under (as described by the CSA):

  1. Its actual or relative potential for abuse
  2. Scientific evidence of its pharmacological effect, if known
  3. The state of current scientific knowledge regarding the drug or other substance
  4. Its history and current pattern of abuse
  5. The scope, duration, and significance of abuse
  6. What, if any, risk there is to the public health
  7. Its psychic or physiological dependence liability
  8. Whether the substance is an immediate precursor of a substance already controlled under this subchapter

The reason for the current review, as explained to HuffPost by a DEA spokeswoman, is due to two public citizens who petition the agency for review. If the review favors rescheduling and the DEA approves, marijuana could be moved to a Schedule II drug like cocaine and methamphetamine. Two previous times, in 2001 and 2006, marijuana has come up for review due to similar requests and both times federal regulators felt that it should remain a Schedule I substance since at the time there was not enough research about the efficacy in treating ailments. The only federally legal marijuana garden in the U.S. resides at the University of Mississippi and the National Institute on Drug Abuse oversees that operation. NIDA has conducted 30 studies on the benefits of marijuana to date, while approving more than 500 grants for marijuana studies as there has been a market upswing in recent years, according to McClatchy. Both the DEA and other federal authorities have been accused of obstructing science around the drug and delaying the rescheduling process.  As of recent, a number of studies have demonstrated the increasing medical potential of cannabis as the purified forms help to fight certain forms of aggressive cancer even finding that its use helps with blood sugar control and slowing the spread of HIV.  Right now, there are 22 states and the District of Columbia, according to Ferner, that have legalized marijuana for medical use with New York being next in line. In addition, 10 other states have legalized CBD-oil, a non-psychoactive ingredient often used for epilepsy patients, for research or limited medical purposes. Even though the FDA is not ready to approve marijuana as a safe and effective drug, it does want to continue to study the potential benefits for medical treatment. Posted last Friday, the FDA did say with regards to its latest guiedlines for the drug that:

“The FDA has not approved marijuana as a safe and effective drug for any indication. The FDA is aware that there is considerable interest in its use to attempt to treat a number of medical conditions, including, for example, glaucoma, AIDS wasting syndrome, neuropathic pain, cancer, multiple sclerosis, chemotherapy-induced nausea, and certain seizure disorders.”

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