The US Drug Enforcement Administration said nope to dope yet again on Thursday.
The agency sent waves of disappointment through the medicinal marijuana community when it announced August 12 that it will not to change the federal legal status of pot. Marijuana is currently classified federally as a Schedule I drug, placing it in the same category as heroin. A Schedule I drug is considered to have no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.
What does this mean for users in states where marijuana is legal in some form? The short of it is, not much.
“If they moved from Schedule I to Schedule II, it wouldn’t really have made that big of a difference to us,” Michael Collins, deputy director of the Drug Policy Alliance, tells Business Insider. “It would have been a symbolic victory, but it wouldn’t have done anything about the fact that marijuana is illegal under federal law, people can get prosecuted, et cetera.”
The push to reclassify marijuana has never really been about recreational users or those trying to start pot-related businesses. From day one, it’s been all about research.
Currently, there is only one lab in the US where researchers could grow marijuana legally and distribute for federally authorised studies. Because of this monopoly, scientists had to wait years to get their hands on research-grade drugs that met their specifications.
This situation created a Catch-22. The DEA won’t reschedule marijuana until it sees sufficient evidence that it’s safe for use under medical supervision — but that support won’t exist until the agency lifts the monopoly on growing. There’s good news in that department, at least.
The DEA also announced this week that it will increase the number of authorised marijuana manufacturers, clearing a hurdle for researchers who want to build evidence that the plant’s Schedule I classification is unwarranted.
Still, marijuana advocates are not too happy with the DEA.
“To say that marijuana has no medicinal value contradicts decades of science and research,” Collins says. “It’s a huge slap in the face to thousands of people who use medical marijuana every day to alleviate their illness.”
Collins likens the DEA to “climate change deniers” who fail to see the truth behind a plant that has suggested medical benefits including the potential to help control epileptic seizures, reduce symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, and slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
Schedule I or not, marijuana remains illegal under federal law for the time being.