As we look back at 2016, pro-legalization enthusiasts, as well as hopeful investors, have every reason to smile at the progress that’s been made with cannabis.
Yet, what may wind up being marijuana’s most memorable moment in 2016 was the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency’s decision in August to deny two petitions requesting that marijuana be rescheduled or removed from the scheduling status entirely. The DEA, which sought and considered the opinion of the Department of Health and Human Services, offered three particular reasons for declining to change marijuana’s schedule 1 status.
First, the DEA and HHS evaluation both agreed that pot demonstrated a high potential for abuse. Secondly, the DEA and HHS found that medical cannabis has no acceptable medical use, at least as of now. Finally, there was a lack of safety evidence to suggest that marijuana could be used as a medical treatment, even if under medical supervision.
Considering that petitions to reschedule marijuana often take years to work their way up to the DEA, it could be a while before the regulatory agency even considers pot’s medical fate once again. However, should that time come around sooner rather than later, three factors could sway the DEA’s mind about marijuana.
THREE FACTORS THAT COULD CHANGE THE DEA’S MIND ABOUT CANNABIS
The first thing the DEA would need to see is clear clinical evidence that marijuana provides medical benefits. Of course, this is probably the trickiest piece of evidence to provide, as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration hasn’t exactly been forthcoming with requests for FDA-designed clinical trials involving pot. We’ve been witnessing a trend toward research leniency when it comes to cannabis, but you should also remember that clinical trials can take quite a bit of time to run and analyze.
Another component that the DEA would need, which goes hand-in-hand with the first point, is clear evidence that cannabis is safe for medical patients. For both of the first two points many pro-legalization advocates will point to the millions of long-term marijuana users, as well as published clinical studies in various journals, as more than enough evidence to suggest pot is safe and effective in treating certain ailments. But the DEA and HHS would only consider the well-crafted trials of the FDA, essentially negating all other previously published studies that the FDA didn’t oversee.
Finally, the DEA would need evidence that the chemistry of marijuana is better understood by the FDA and researchers. In other words, the components of cannabis aren’t considered reproducible at the moment, so researchers would need to further dissect the chemistry behind the plant to understand how it positively or negative impacts the body.
If all three factors were met, it’s possible the DEA could change its tune.
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