Cannabis researchers are pushing for the DEA to change marijuana classification this summer. Despite marijuana's legalization in some states, it still belongs on the list of Schedule I drugs that are not supposed to be in medicine and are thought to have a high potential for abuse. If DEA reclassifies cannabis to a lower Schedule, it will have a major impact on its medical use and will open the road for larger marijuana studies.
Nowadays, a medical study requires getting an approval from the DEA, a process that often takes a lot of time because of the complicated paperwork required. For instance, researchers at the University of South Florida’s Byrd Alzheimer’s Institute was not able to gather the data they needed because they waited for the DEA approval for more than three months. The scientists tried to investigate the THC influence on amyloid beta, the protein found in the brain of Alzheimer’s patients, but several laboratory mice literary died of old age waiting for the study to be approved, and the surviving mice were too old to generate reliable results.
There are many other cases when studies failed because of this complicated bureaucracy. Sachin Patel, a professor at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, who investigates marijuana for over 15 years now, also complains about the hurdles of DEA approval. Patel supports marijuana reclassification at least to the Schedule II that also includes drugs with a high potential for abuse but allows to apply them in medicine.
Another problem that cannabis researchers face are federal regulations that specify the National Center for Natural Products Research at the University of Mississippi as only one source of medical marijuana used in human studies. However, this source is often criticized for a poor range of cannabis strains that does not include the majority of the modern hybrids that are stronger and more varied.
There are a lot of scientific information on marijuana already; PubMed contains more than 23 thousand studies on cannabis, but double-blind clinical studies are still necessary for weed to have any officially approved applications in medicine. It is necessary to remove marijuana from the Schedule I list to allow scientists to study cannabis properly.
Sachin Patel is sure that large-scale, double-blind investigations could support cannabis patients' views on the weed effectiveness for nausea and chronic pain or contradict them, should the scientific findings contradict popular beliefs.
Moreover, after rescheduling, medical cannabis may be recognized as a subject that can be studied in medical schools. Though marijuana has been used for medical purposes for 10,000 years, it is still a new medication in Western medicine.
Now, the DEA is considering two separate petitions regarding the rescheduling of medical marijuana. Additionally, they have a letter with recommendations from the FDA. Unfortunately, no one knows what exactly does this letter say, as the whole process is closed to the public and will remain closed until the DEA arrives at its decision. Nobody knows how much time it will take as previous petitions had to wait up to 20 years for a final response.
Do you think it is likely that the DEA will reschedule marijuana? Will cannabis be moved to Schedule II, III? Could it get the same tobacco and alcohol have? We will be glad to read your opinion in the comments below.