As scientists and researchers from Israel, Brazil, Canada and the US participate in the Sixth National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics, a coalition of medical marijuana advocates is calling on the Obama administration for prompt action on an eight-year-old petition to reschedule marijuana for medical use. The petition, filed in 2002, argues that marijuana should be classified as a drug with "accepted medical use" based on growing scientific evidence and acceptance in state law. Since the petition was filed, even more scientific studies and state laws have recognized the medical efficacy of marijuana.
President Obama's Administration now has the opportunity to reclassify cannabis (marijuana) under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) to make it consistent with state medical marijuana policies and that of its own Department of Justice. After nearly eight years of agency review, including an analysis of existing scientific evidence by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the petition is finally approaching its ultimate phase.
A final decision on the rescheduling petition will be made by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), however DEA can not place marijuana in a more restrictive schedule than recommended by HHS. Recently nominated DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart will make the decision on rescheduling marijuana at some point in the near future.
Jon Gettman, a spokesperson for The Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis, states that, "Rescheduling marijuana is an urgent priority that needs this Administration's immediate attention. Medical marijuana patients have waited too long for the federal government to catch up to scientific research and state laws that recognize that the therapeutic use of cannabis is safe, effective, and most importantly not criminal activity. We demand that federal policymakers recognize and accept their responsibility to regulate marijuana under the provisions of the Controlled Substances Act."
The CSA classifies marijuana and other drugs in various schedules. Marijuana is currently classified as a Schedule I substance, designating it as having a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in the United States, and a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision.
The CSA provides a procedure to have scheduling classifications changed in response to scientific research and other relevant factors, such as recognition of a drug's accepted medical use and its dependence liability as compared to other controlled substances. Schedule I substances include heroin, GHB and MDMA (ecstasy). Cocaine and oxycodone are both Schedule II substances, which allows for severely restricted medical use while maintaining the assertion that its abuse may lead to severe physiological and psychological dependence. Marinol® a synthetic form of THC (marijuana) that is widely prescribed medically is a Schedule III substance designating that it has a currently accepted medical use in the United States and that's its abuse may lead to only moderate or low physical dependence or high psychological dependence.
The case for rescheduling marijuana has been strengthened by several recent developments. Fourteen states now recognize marijuana's medical use. The Department of Justice (DOJ) has also recognized that marijuana is used medically under these state laws and directed the DEA and US Attorneys not to prosecute individuals for such use in these states. In addition the reclassification of marijuana under the CSA is now supported by the American Medical Association. The Iowa Pharmacy Board, using the same criteria as the CSA, has recommended rescheduling of marijuana under state law. Furthermore, recent studies by the California Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research have documented marijuana's effectiveness in treating a variety of ailments. Most recently, on April 16th and 17th Patients Out of Time and the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine will hold The Sixth National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Warwick, RI. This accredited educational event features cannabis/cannabinoid researchers from Israel, Brazil, Canada and the US.
The members of the Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis include the American Alliance for Medical Cannabis. Americans for Safe Access (ASA), California NORML, the Drug Policy Forum of Texas, High Times, Iowans for Medical Marijuana, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), New Mexicans for Compassionate Use, Oakland Cannabis Buyers Cooperative, and Patients Out of Time.
The petition and supporting research can be found online at www.drugscience.org/index.html
Timeline of Efforts to Reschedule Marijuana
1995 - 2001 Prior attempt by Jon Gettman to reschedule cannabis ended with a rejection of the petition by then DEA head Asa Hutchinson
2002 - Coalition for Rescheduling files new petition to DEA to reschedule marijuana.
2003 - DEA evaluates petition and sends it for review to HHS
2003 - 2009 - HHS reviews all science relevant and makes recommendation to DEA
2009 - Present - Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis awaits final decision by DEA.
The Cannabis Rescheduling Petition:
Department of Justice Advisory on Medical Marijuana:
California Center for Medicinal Cannabis:
The Sixth National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics: