Many experts doubt the DEA will reschedule marijuana—even after yesterday’s news that the agency could be thinking about changing the drug’s legal status.
Under federal law, cannabis is currently considered a Schedule I drug.
The DEA defines drugs in this category as having no medical benefits. It also sees Schedule I drugs as the most dangerous class of drugs in the world.
Citing a number of problems with this classification, critics of the U.S.’s drug laws have long argued that cannabis needs to be rescheduled. And in what many saw as a possible step forward, the DEA released a memo yesterday saying that in the next few months it hopes to make a decision on whether or not it will make any such changes.
But experts are already warning against getting too excited. Here are the main reasons why some experts doubt the DEA will reschedule marijuana:
The DEA has a bad track record when it comes to changing cannabis laws
Yesterday’s memo was in many ways a long-delayed response to a petition that was filed years ago. Back in 2011, former state governors Christine Gregoire and Lincoln Chafee asked the DEA to reschedule cannabis.
While yesterday’s memo indicates that a decision could finally be on the way, there still has never been any official action taken in response to Gregoire’s and Chafee’s request.
And some experts have pointed out that this isn’t the first time the DEA has put off responding to requests to reschedule marijuana. The first three times the agency received petitions, it delayed answering them for anywhere from six to 16 years.
When the DEA did finally get around to responding, it has obviously never decided to make any changes to the way it sees marijuana.
The DEA tends to ignore changes in how science views cannabis
There is a growing body of scientific research indicating that cannabis could be used for a wide variety of medical purposes.
Published studies and personal anecdotes alike suggest that cannabis could be an effective way to treat ailments such as chronic pain, PTSD, anxiety, depression, and many more.
There is even significant research exploring how cannabis kills cancer cells.
Despite all this, the DEA continues to insist that marijuana has “no currently accepted medical use.”
In fact, last fall the head of the DEA, Chuck Rosenberg, came under fire when he called medical marijuana “a joke.”
Many in the medical marijuana community said his comment ignored both science and the public support for using cannabis for medical purposes. And despite a petition to fire him, Rosenberg is still in charge of the agency.
There may not be enough political pressure
And finally, many experts have said that there may not be enough political pressure for the DEA to decide to make any radical changes.
In particular, marijuana activists have been concerned that President Obama’s unwillingness to call for changes to marijuana laws has made it more unlikely that the DEA would reschedule cannabis.
Earlier this year, Obama made his position very clear when he said he would not make marijuana law a priority for his final year in office.
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