As DEA rejects latest efforts to reschedule Cannabis, ambiguity abounds.

By: Aaron Diamond

Remember in April when the Drug Enforcement Agency claimed they would examine the scheduling of Cannabis in the first half of 2016?

That deadline passed months ago, and here we are, still hanging on Congress to deliver some satisfaction for those who have been waiting. DEA spokesman Russ Baer is now saying there is no “artificial timeline” that they will be complying to.

As of August this year, it seems the DEA have actually moved further away from coming to a conclusion. They - in 2016, when medical cannabis is available in some form in 25 states and the District of Columbia - feel there is not enough medical or scientific criteria to back a legal push to reschedule cannabis. The DEA is working with FDA and National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) who consistently classify marijuana as dangerous because it maintains a “high potential for abuse” and therefore cannot be used safely under medical supervision.

There have been unofficial claims made regarding a new look at rescheduling this month, but at this point the DEA seems to be on their own schedule.  The U.S Department of Health and Human Services are in communication with the DEA, but what they have been discussing is yet to become public knowledge.     

So it appears any chance of rescheduling Marijuana this year might be up in smoke. Even in 2012 when states like Colorado and Washington voters passed the bill to legalize the use and possession of medical cannabis, the legislation still took over 8 months to finalise.

Since marijuana remains classified as a Schedule One substance, companies wishing to produce cannabis products are not legally allowed to make any medical claims; as the government's official stance is that this drug has harmful tendencies that may lead to abuse and addiction.  

So maybe not 2016, but will the DEA ever take another look at rescheduling?  Even though it seems like we are still beating the same dead horse for the last four decades, there are still advancements, fueling the hope of everyone involved with the emergent marijuana industry. While DEA seems to be stalling, there is still progress.  Until now, University of Mississippi has been the only “marijuana manufacturer” under an exclusive contract with NIDA.  The DEA recently made a policy change to allow other manufacturers to supply cannabis for federal research which means diversifying tests and getting more results.

Elected officials like New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and US representative Jared Polis from Colorado are duelling the heavy hitters in D.C. to make sure the green elephant in the room is addressed and at least remains a relevant issue on the Hill.

Pharmaceutical companies are trying to push “Marinol” through rescheduling as a synthetic marijuana, but even that is proving to take some time. DEA's reluctance on cannabis would appear to spread to pharmaceutically synthesised versions as well as natural forms. So for now, cannabis will remain a Schedule One substance; but the new policy changes could eventually help science prove that the current approach is preventing medical progress.