Marijuana equal to heroin? Law says yes, but that may modify

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Source:   —  April 07, 2016, at 1:41 AM

First set in one thousand nine hundred-seventieth, marijuana’s classification below the Controlled Substances Act has become increasingly out of step with scientific research, public opinion, medical utilize and state law.

Marijuana equal to heroin? Law says yes, but that may modify

In a lengthy memo to lawmakers, the Drug Enforcement Administration said it hopes to determine whether to modify the federal status of marijuana “in the first half of 2016.”

Marijuana is currently listed below the Controlled Substances Act as a Schedule one drug, meaning that for the purposes of federal law, the drug has “no medical utilize and a high potential for abuse” and is one of “the most risky drugs of all the drug schedules with potentially severe psychological or physical dependence.” Marijuana shares Schedule one status with heroin, and it's more strictly regulated than the powerful prescription painkillers that have killed more than 165.000 people since 1999.

First set in one thousand nine hundred-seventieth, marijuana’s classification below the Controlled Substances Act has become increasingly out of step with scientific research, public opinion, medical utilize and state law. Citing marijuana’s potentially significant therapeutic potential for a no of serious ailments, including chronic pain and epilepsy, organizations such as the American Medical Organization and the American School of Pediatrics have called on the DEA to modify the drug’s scheduling status.

But the DEA has rebuffed numerous previous attempts at rescheduling, sometimes after decades of stonewalling, and in at minimum one case overrode the recommendation of its own administrative judge. The current petition before the DEA was initiated by then-governors Christine Gregoire of WA and Lincoln Chafee of RI in two thousand-eleventh. In a previous letter to lawmakers, the DEA indicated it'd all the information it needed to create the decision as of last September.

The current memo, written in conjunction with the heads of the Dept of Health and Human Services and the Office of National Drug Control Policy, also provides a detailed see at how the federal government provides marijuana to researchers. Currently, the government grants a monopoly on marijuana production for research purposes to one program at the Univ of Mississippi. “Because of this monopoly, research-grade drugs that meet researchers’ specifications frequently get years to acquire, if they're produced at all,” a Brookings Institution report argued last year.

According to the memo, in the years between two thousand ten and two thousand fifteen, the government provided marijuana for research purposes to an average of nine researchers per year. Given the rapidly changing marijuana policy landscape, experts declare that level of support is nowhere close sufficient to hold up with research demand.

“That no is totally insufficient to meet public health needs and to reply the no of [research] questions that population up yearly,” the Brookings Institution’s John Hudak said in an interview.

Hudak said the tiny no of researchers working with marijuana in any given year is less a function of the government turning down applications, and more a function of an onerous, convoluted application process -- one that requires approval from multiple government agencies and deters academics from even pursuing this type of research. “People just aren’t applying because of all the headaches involved,” he said. “It’s a enormous disincentive for the academic community.”

The bureaucratic hurdles also imply that colleges and universities are frequently hesitant to fund marijuana research for fear of running afoul of complex federal regulations. One ongoing study on the utilize of marijuana to treat veterans with PTSD has been struggling to obtain off the ground for more than five years, for instance.

Meanwhile, researchers say, families desperate for relief for loved ones’ ailments are taking matters into their own hands, emotional across state lines and turning to social media to reply complicated questions about marijuana dosing and treatment -- questions to which researchers themselves don’t have the answers.

Still, Hudak credits the DEA, HHS and ONDCP for the thoroughness of their response to lawmakers’ questions in this instance. In addition to detailed information about the quantity and type of marijuana the federal government makes available to researchers, the memo outlines the steps the government is taking to make better coordination among federal agencies on data quality.

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