DEA Fails To Reschedule Marijuana: Five Things You Need To Know

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Marijuana will remain officially among the most dangerous drugs in the world, as per a decision by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration announced this morning.

The DEA has formally denied two petitions to “re-schedule” pot down from its place atop the list of the world’s most dangerous drugs, stating that there’s not enough science to prove pot has some medical use or a lower potential for abuse than they thought.

Keeping an eye on the green. - D.E.A.
  • D.E.A.
  • Keeping an eye on the green.

Instead, the DEA promised to end its monopoly on the only supplies of pot deemed worthy of research. Up until now, the DEA only allowed one government-licensed medical pot farm, at the University of Mississippi.

Under the new rules, many more licensed farms could exist, and provide researchers the weed they need to get pot rescheduled once and for all.

John Hudak with Brookings put together a great explainer on how more research pot farms could accomplish marijuana law reformers’ goals, just at a more incremental pace. Here’s five things to know:

1) Rescheduling Isn’t Salvation or Damnation
Changing pot’s official federal status changes little on the ground in the now 37 medical pot states, who are going their own way.

“All those who believed rescheduling would be manna from Heaven, or the devil incarnate tossing the cannabis industry into eternal flames, exaggerated a minor administrative action.”

2) Ending the Monopoly on Research Weed is a Big Effing Deal
The DEA has been under broad, bipartisan and even State Department pressure to end its stranglehold on so-called research weed. After decades of opposition — they’ve caved. It’s historic.

“The government was complicit in holding science back and the monopoly was largely to blame. While the result was not a malicious effort from the grower(s) charged with administering the monopoly, the results of the policy were dangerous for the empirical study of cannabis, nonetheless.”

3) More Research Farms = More Pressure on DEA
Hudak confirms cannabis policy is trapped in a "Catch-22" where researchers are not allowed to prove cannabis should be allowed to be researched.

“Ending the DEA-mandated NIDA monopoly will mean that better, more careful, more precise, more theoretically-driven research can be conducted. That means better, more convincing answers to one of the central questions in this policy space: does marijuana have medical value.”

4) 'Schedule 1' Marijuana Remains Doomed
Widely considered a farce by both physicians and lawmakers, cannabis’ Schedule 1 status is more about bureaucratic lag than scientific validity. About 60 percent of Americans support legalizing pot, including a majority of doctors. A super-majority supports medical use. Hundreds of studies attest to both its medical efficacy and low potential for abuse.

“The days of prohibition, the days of public fear of marijuana, and the days of a public agreeing that marijuana is as dangerous as heroin or LSD have come to an end. In the process, policies like marijuana’s Schedule I status have adopted a very short shelf-life,” Hudak writes.

5) DEA Rejection Is A Windfall for Legalizers
A bigger DEA victory could have been used to take wind out state-level legalization efforts. The argument being, 'why rush ahead at the state level when the feds are coming around?' Instead, marijuana law reform groups could seize on the DEA's overt rejection of science, reason, public and doctor opinion to energize reform efforts over the next 88 days until the election. 

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