dea cannabis

In a letter to senators, the Drug Enforcement Administration stated that it plans to decide whether marijuana should be reclassified under federal law in “the first half of 2016.”

In response to a letter from the DEA,  Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and seven other Democratic senators urged the federal government to facilitate research into marijuana’s medical benefits. However, the Senator’s letter doesn’t indicate whether it will reclassify marijuana as less dangerous.

In the U.S. there are five categories, or schedules, that classify illegal drugs or chemicals that can be used to make them. Schedule I is reserved for drugs the DEA considers to have the highest potential for abuse and no “current accepted medical use.” For decades, marijuana has been classified as Schedule I, along with heroin and LSD. Rescheduling marijuana wouldn’t make it legal, but it might ease restrictions on research and reduce penalties for marijuana offenses.

“DEA understands the widespread interest in the prompt resolution to these petitions and hopes to release its determination in the first half of 2016,” the DEA said in the 25-page letter.

The letter describes in great detail the marijuana supply available at the University of Mississippi, the federal government’s only sanctioned marijuana garden.

According to the letter, the Food and Drug Administration has completed a review of the medical evidence surrounding the safety and effectiveness of marijuana and has forwarded its rescheduling recommendation to the DEA. The letter didn’t state what the FDA recommended.

If demand for research into marijuana’s medical potential were to increase beyond the University of Mississippi’s supply, the DEA said it may consider registering additional growers.

Previously, the DEA has been asked to reconsider marijuana’s classification. In 2001 and 2006, the DEA considered petitions, but it decided to keep marijuana a Schedule I substance.

The DEA’s response is signed by several senators. All but one are cosponsors of a bill introduced in 2015 that is deigned to sharply reduce the federal government’s ability to crack down on state-legal medical marijuana programs while at the same time is encouraging more research into the substance.

Tom Angell, founder of Marijuana Majority, a marijuana reform group, said there was “absolutely no reason marijuana should remain in Schedule I.”

“Almost half the states in the country have medical cannabis laws and major groups like the American Nurses Association and the American College of Physicians are on board,” Angell said in a statement. He also stated that the Obama administration should use its authority to make the change “before this president leaves office.”

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