The Drug Enforcement Agency has declined to reschedule marijuana.
This will keep marijuana in the category of dangerous banned substances as heroin and LSD. Currently, marijuana is classified as having no medical value in the eyes of the federal government despite anecdotal evidence and the testimonies from many medical patients.
Currently there are twenty-five states that have legalized the use of marijuana for medical purposes. Residents from 8 states will be voting on legalizing either the medical or recreational use of marijuana this November.
The DEA will allow for an expansion of medical marijuana research. Currently, only the University of Mississippi is permitted to grow marijuana for research purposes. Researchers will now be allowed to access marijuana from additional sources. Critics have long charged that one university could not match the true demand for research grade marijuana. What appeared to be a lack of demand was often discouragement on the part of the DEA according to researchers.
“The DEA has concluded the best way to satisfy the current researcher demand for a variety of strains of marijuana and cannabinoid extracts is to increase the number of federally authorized marijuana growers,” the agency wrote.
Frustration Still Lingers
For years the DEA claimed it could not reschedule marijuana because there was not enough research available to determine its medicinal benefits. Simultaneously, they prevented additional research from being conducted. This lack of research may fade and marijuana legislation could be based on hard data moving forward.
“I welcome the decision to lessen barriers to medical marijuana research,” said Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), “It’s outrageous that federal policy has blocked science for so long.”
Although Rep. Blumenauer is pleased to see marijuana research expand, he was also frustrated that marijuana will remain on the Schedule I list. He called the decision“further evidence that the DEA doesn’t get it. Keeping marijuana at Schedule I continues an outdated, failed approach—leaving patients and marijuana businesses trapped between state and federal laws.”
There are other concerns advocates were hoping to see addressed if the DEA decided to reschedule. Since marijuana is a Schedule I substance, businesses do not have access to banking. They are forced to keep cash and marijuana on hand at dispensaries. This also makes shops a target by criminals. Additionally, marijuana-related businesses are not entitled to the normal tax deductions that many small companies lean on to stay profitable.
Legalization Still Seems Imminent
The DEA’s decision may seem like baby steps to marijuana advocates, but ultimately may represent a significant victory. The Democratic party has adopted a pathway for legalization as part of their official party platform. Democratic presidential candidate Hilary Clinton currently leads in the polls and President Obama has publicly stated that marijuana is no more dangerous than alcohol.