The Drug Enforcement Administration is expected to announce plans to expand research into medical marijuana on Thursday — but the agency is reportedly declining to change marijuana's classification under federal law, Reuters reports.
Legalization advocates hoped that the DEA would reschedule marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act, which currently places the substance in the strictest classification, Schedule I. The agency said it would issue a decision on marijuana rescheduling this year in response to a 2015 request from a group of senators who urged the DEA to lower marijuana's federal classification.
In lieu of rescheduling, the agency plans to loosen restrictions on marijuana research by expanding access to medical-grade marijuana to multiple research facilities, Rep. Earl Blumenuer (D-Ore.) said in a statement.
“[T]his decision doesn’t go far enough and is further evidence that the DEA doesn’t get it,” Blumenuer said. “Keeping marijuana at Schedule I continues an outdated, failed approach — leaving patients and marijuana businesses trapped between state and federal laws."
"It’s not right or fair. Americans have spoken, with a majority supporting full legalization. It’s not enough to remove some barriers to medical research. Marijuana shouldn’t be listed as Schedule I; it shouldn’t be listed at all. It is imperative, as part of the most progressive Administration on marijuana in history, that the DEA work to end the failed prohibition of marijuana."
Schedule I drugs are considered dangerous and addictive with no medical value. In light of research indicating that cannabis offers a wide range of therapeutic benefits, lawmakers and legalization advocates alike have called on the DEA to adjust its classification system to allow for expanded access to the substance for patients. Though it remains federally illegal, 25 states have legalized marijuana for medical or recreational purposes.
"It's really sad that DEA has chosen to continue decades of ignoring the voices of patients who benefit from medical marijuana," Tom Angell, the founder of the Marijuana Majority, said in a statement emailed to ATTN:. "This unfortunate decision only further highlights the need for Congress to pass legislation curtailing the ability of DEA and other federal agencies to interfere with the effective implementation of state marijuana laws."
"A clear and growing majority of American voters support legalizing marijuana outright and the very least our representatives should do is let states implement their own policies, unencumbered by an outdated ‘Reefer Madness’ mentality that some in law enforcement still choose to cling to," Angell said.