The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced on Thursday, Aug. 11, that the executive agency will allow marijuana researchers to use “a more varied and robust supply” of the drug by allowing more institutions to conduct scientific experiments and grow their own cannabis plants.
Acting DEA administrator, Chuck Rosenberg, however, formally rejected a 2011 petition from the states of Rhode Island and Washington, which sought to remove marijuana from the Schedule I federal list of banned substances under the Controlled Substances Act (1970).
In a letter addressed to both states, Rosenberg wrote:
“If the scientific understanding about marijuana changes — and it could change — then the decision could change. But we will remain tethered to science, as we must, and as the statute demands.”
Mr. Rosenberg went on to cite a “lack of accepted safety for (marijuana’s) use under medical supervision” and its “high potential for abuse,” both prerequisites for Schedule I drugs.
Despite the government’s continued skepticism of marijuana’s medical value, voters in nine states, including California and Arizona, will decide on ballot measures in the Nov. 8 general election which propose legalizing either recreational or medical use of the drug — potentially putting more states in legal limbo with federal authorities.
Currently, 350 researchers in the U.S. are permitted by the DEA to conduct experiments on marijuana to determine its medical use, up from 161 in April 2014. The University of Mississippi is the only research institution currently allowed to grow its own marijuana.
Experts critical of the federal government’s marijuana prohibition policy point to the increasing rise of prescription drug abuse in America and cite recent studies, like one released in July by the University of Georgia, which show that people in states that allow marijuana for medicinal use consume fewer FDA-approved prescription drugs, including painkillers.
The July study also found that because people in the 17 states that have legal medical marijuana were using fewer traditional medications, which tend to be more expensive, the Medicare drug program saved a total of $165.2 million in 2013 alone.
[The Hill] [Reuters] [Photo courtesy Cannabis Training University via Pinterest]