FDA Issues Marijuana Rescheduling Recommendation to DEA

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Top federal health officials recently told the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) whether marijuana should be reclassified under federal law, a document obtained by Marijuana.com reveals, but it is not yet known what that recommendation entails.

“DEA recently received the [Department of Health and Human Services] scientific and medical evaluations as well as a scheduling recommendation that HHS prepared in response to” two petitions to reclassify cannabis under federal law, Assistant Attorney General Peter J. Kadzik wrote in a September 30 letter to Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR). “DEA is currently reviewing these documents and all other relevant data to make a scheduling determination in accordance with the [Controlled Substances Act].”

Cannabis is currently classified in the Controlled Substances Act under Schedule I, a category that’s supposed to be reserved for drugs with no medical value.

One of the two pending rescheduling petitions currently under review was filed in 2011 by then-Governor Christine Gregoire of Washington State and then-Governor Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island. Both states have medical marijuana laws. It isn’t immediately clear what other petition Kadzik referred to in the letter to Blumenauer.

HHS tasks its Food and Drug Administration component with conducting the medical and scientific review needed for rescheduling recommendations. It isn’t known how long it will take DEA to review the HHS/FDA proposal and issue its own ruling.

DEA’s most recent rejection of a cannabis rescheduling petition, in June 2011, came four and a half years after it received FDA’s input in December 2006. Previous to that, DEA’s rejection in March 2001 of a separate rescheduling petition came just two months after getting a recommendation from FDA. In both cases the health officials suggested keeping marijuana in Schedule I, which DEA agreed with.

“Upon completion of the determination, DEA will notify the petitioners of its decision and plans to publish the full analyses of both HHS and DEA in the Federal Register,” Kadzik said of the currently ongoing review.

According to federal law, HHS must consider several factors in making a recommendation to DEA, including scientific evidence of a drugs’s pharmacological effect, risk to public health, psychic or physiological dependence liability and actual or relative potential for abuse.

The previously unreleased letter to Blumenauer was referenced in a separate letter that a group of eight U.S senators sent this week pressing DEA and other federal agencies to remove roadblocks to research on marijuana’s medical benefits.

Kadzik’s revelation to Blumenauer that DEA had received a rescheduling recommendation from FDA as of September 30, the senators wrote, is in contrast to what officials for DEA, HHS and the Office of National Drug Control Policy reportedly told a group of Capitol Hill staffers at a briefing on November 13. At the meeting, according to the senators, staff pressed for a timeline on processing the rescheduling petition but were told by the the federal agency officials that they “could not provide the requested information.”

That was more than six weeks after Kadzik told Blumenauer that the FDA had already made its recommendation to DEA.

“At best, this was a remarkably embarrassing mistake,” Mike Liszewski of Americans for Safe Access told Marijuana.com in an interview. Pointing to recent instances of the Justice Department operating in bad faith, such as offering differing interpretations of a Congressional medical marijuana enforcement rider before and after it was enacted, he added, “this latest revelation is especially concerning. We hope the agencies will become more transparent and give medical marijuana patients the respect they deserve.”

Read Kadzik’s full letter to Blumenauer below.

About Author

Tom Angell covers policy and politics for Marijuana.com. Separately, he serves as chairman of the nonprofit organization Marijuana Majority, which works to ensure that elected officials and the media treat legalization as a serious, mainstream issue. Marijuana Majority led the effort to get the U.S. Conference of Mayors to pass a resolution telling the federal government to respect state marijuana laws, and orchestrated the first-ever endorsement for marijuana legalization by a U.S. Supreme Court justice (John Paul Stevens). Previously, Tom worked for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and Students for Sensible Drug Policy. (All organizations are listed for identification purposes only.)

  • Rod is on the Gas

    Of course not……..

    “were told by the the federal agency officials that they “could not provide the requested information.” ”

    The information is un-obtainable……….

    “According to federal law, HHS must consider several factors in making a recommendation to DEA, including scientific evidence of a drugs’s pharmacological effect, risk to public health, psychic or physiological dependence liability and actual or relative potential for abuse.”

    The dependence on the 1937 era marijuana prohibition didn’t require any of that stuff! Shouldn’t we simply ignore the prohibition as being a fraud?

    • Art Hallowed

      Yes. I like looking at old Sear’s catalogs circa the 1900’s where Cannabis was sold in a can and could be mailed right to your door. No crime or tado back then…

      • Melanie Collins Pennock

        My grandma used to but it at the corner store in Chicago whilst a student and then a teacher at the Art Institute.

    • Stanthe man

      Good point. Harry Anslinger pretty much made Marijuana illegal by himself with help from only a few people. Hurst helped with the newspapers, and can’t remember the guy that produced “Reefer Madness”. That was all the information they needed to make it illegal.

      • Melanie Collins Pennock

        “Reefer Madness” was one of the funniest movies I have seen. Yes, I know that wasn’t the intent!

      • jimmy

        he did because of racism towards mexicans

        • Stanthe man

          I think he was even more concerned with keeping his cushy job busting non violent offenders. Without alcohol prohibition there wasn’t much for his prohibition police to do.

  • Stanthe man

    If marijuana is taken off the schedule 1 drug list, the DEA is out of a job. There are about 40 million drug users in the US. These are the people that use an illegal drug at least once a year. If you take marijuana out of the mix there are only 11 million drug users. Not a large enough number to rectify 27 billion dollars a year for a spending budget. The budget would be cut to the point that the DEA would cease to operate. So now you know why the DEA won’t review the results and make a decision on drug classification.

    • Bill

      You are right, but that does not make it right… I am so tired of doctors who know the truth punishing us for using the herb, but praising us for cutting down on the opiates and other medications at the same time – you can not have it both ways, DOCTORS. Either leave me alone or double my opiates – that is what it would take to replace cannabis for me. Yes, I know I am currently a “law breaker” but some laws should never have been written… If I do not stand up for a cause I believe in with all my heart and mind (I have done A LOT of research), then why should I expect anyone else to?

  • Art Hallowed

    Obama must stand up and make The Executive Order to remove Cannabis from some stupid made up non scientific crapola grouping???
    Just fold the entire DEA and that Schedule program for all it’s waste!!!

    • Rick Fontana

      Obama should do some thing really great to be remembered by like take Marijuana off Schedule one….For the people of the US ,,,,Medical Marijuana could help.

      • Bill

        That would be just about the only POSITIVE thing he could do not to be remembered as the biggest failure EVER!!!

        • Stanthe man

          Your forgetting the previous president.

          • Bill

            Maybe a tie…

        • metalbuoy

          Agreed, which is exactly why he won’t bother to. It’ll be the next president unless America is stupid enough to elect chris Christy.

          • Stanthe man

            I think Bernie Sanders is the best choice for the middle class. He says he will remove marijuana from schedule 1. That would be good for the country.

          • ßḫ…ߣⱦ ȶ€ɍ …ħÂƔễ… ɱɏ… ɯøȵⱻ¥

            He’s good for many reasons, his stance on marijuana is merely the icing on top of the cake.

          • Bill

            Bernie has a lot of good ideas. I am not party – affiliated (Independent).

        • lovelydestruction

          Up yours, I like him. Did more for us than the last.

          • Bill

            YOU must be a muzzie lover libatard as well so I forgive your emotional outburst.

          • lovelydestruction

            You must be a masturbatory dickwad so I fart in your general direction.

          • Bill

            Very classy.

          • lovelydestruction

            thanks

  • Franklin

    The DEA is clearly saying in this letter that they are clinging to marijuana prohibition until congress pries to from their cold dead hands. The FDA is not equipped to approve a plant as a drug. They have a total of 2 botanical extracts approved from other plants, zero whole plants. Marinol on the other hand has been FDA approved for 40 years or so. The DEA is behaving like the tail wagging the dog. They might not realize it but they are making a case for just not having the capability of regulating the cannabis plant. States have been moving to a regulate like alcohol model anyway. It’s pretty clear that it would be better to remove marijuana from the schedule and regulate it with alcohol and tobacco under the ATF.

    As far as the DEA goes, they have failed miserably with the trillion dollars wasted on the drug war. Dissolve this secretive militant police agency and just fund specific programs, like the Heroin task force, and leave it under FBI oversight. We don’t have the money to spare on propping up a relic of the Cold War big government with a separate overlapping agency for every little thing.

    • YearofAction

      Franklin, exactly. The SCOTUS already gave the DEA the right to interpret the confusing federal definition of “marihuana” any way they want. They wont give up on that, so what is needed is a reform to that definition which clearly says what marijuana is, like this:

      16. The term “marijuana” means all parts of the smoke produced by the combustion of the plant Cannabis sativa L. which is prohibited to be grown by or sold by any publicly traded corporation or subsidiary company.

      This year is a good time to contact your congressional representatives to enact this reform to that definition, so that it can then be rescheduled.

  • ßḫ…ߣⱦ ȶ€ɍ …ħÂƔễ… ɱɏ… ɯøȵⱻ¥

    I don’t understand why the DEA won’t give up already over this. If they reschedule marijuana they free up resources that can be used to combat *actually* dangerous drugs such as heroin.

    • lovelydestruction

      They don’t want to lose their ‘low-hanging fruit’. Nothing easier than busting a careless stoner.

      • Bill

        God have mercy on you if you ever contract cancer or become disabled and suffer in chronic pain and/or depression (all which cannabis treats with NO toxic side effects)…..

        • lovelydestruction

          Exactly…sucks donkey the way they dissimulate and abuse the people of this country.

          • Bill

            On this we agree.

          • lovelydestruction

            what do we disagree on? I love weed, the DEA should be blocked from anything to do with it.

    • calvet11

      Heroin dealers have a nasty habit of shooting people who interfere with their livelihood. Pot dealers are like James Franco in “Pineapple Express”. So who would you like to bust the door down on. Funky Winkerbean or Godzilla with an AK-47.

  • BryanKrumm

    I filed the first of these 2 rescheduling petitions in 2009. Unlike the petition from Washington and Rhode Island I did not ask for schedule 2. I asked for removal from schedule 1 and I reserved the right to challenge inappropriate scheduling if FDA recommends schedule 2. I want to see Cannabis removed from the CSA. I was not aware that FDA had sent a recommendation to DEA until I saw this article (Thanks Tom) I fully anticipate that I will have to file in the court of appeals again to get DEA to act on this because I don’t anticipate the Attorney Generals of either Washington or Rhode Island to stand up to the DEA. DEA sat on the last rescheduling petition for over 4 years before they were forced to respond to Jon Gettman. Over 100 Americans suicide everyday while DEA denies them access to life saving medication. The DEA has proven to be little more than a terrorist organization and is responsible for the deaths of more Americans than Al Queda, the Taliban and ISIS combined.