Is Marijuana Dangerous? DEA Considers Reclassifying Drug

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) may soon decide to reschedule marijuana so it’s not in the same legal class as drugs like heroin and LSD, according to the Huffington Post.

Marijuana is currently a Schedule 1 drug, which means it has “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse,” as the DEA defines it.

All the DEA has currently confirmed is that it will convene to decide if marijuana should be rescheduled by the middle of the year, so likely by July. This information came in the form of a letter to senators who had written the DEA requesting marijuana be given freedom to be studied for medical purposes. The senators who wrote the DEA were Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Jeffrey Merkley (Ore.), Ron Wyden (Ore.), Barbara Mikulski (Md.), Edward Markey (Mass.), Barbara Boxer (Calif.), Cory Booker (N.J.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.). All of them are from the Democratic Party.

dea marijuana warren
[Photo by Astrid Riecken/Getty Images]
Being in the Schedule 1 class, marijuana is also in the same class as “powerful prescription painkillers that have killed more than 165,000 people since 1999,” according to the Washington Post. On the other hand, marijuana has never killed anyone directly, according to the Huffington Post.

There are a few other schedules the DEA could put marijuana on that would cause it to be seen as a less dangerous drug, legally speaking. Schedule 2 drugs, like cocaine and meth, are seen as drugs “with a high potential for abuse, with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence.” Obviously that means marijuana would still be seen as a dangerous drug, but more like Adderall and less like heroin.

The DEA could schedule marijuana further down at Schedule 3, which includes drugs “with a moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence.” Ketamine is Schedule 3. Schedule 4 includes drugs that have a low potential for abuse or dependence, like Xanax. Finally, Schedule 5 includes drugs with a very low risk of abuse or dependence.

The DEA rescheduling marijuana is not the same as it legalizing marijuana, but it could make research and medical use easier if it goes to a lower level on the scheduling list. Since the senators who wrote the letter to the DEA were requesting that marijuana be freed for further medical studies, rescheduling it would be a positive first step in that process.

The DEA’s 25-page memo it sent in response to these senators rebuked the senators’ claims that the DEA was obstructing marijuana research in any way and attempted to explain how the organization works with the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) to provide marijuana to researchers.

NIDA and the University of Mississippi work together to produce all of the marijuana needed for research in the United States, based on estimations. NIDA has been accused many times of not providing enough marijuana for research, according to Wired, and many have claimed they have to wait long periods to get research-grade marijuana. Studies that don’t rely on the marijuana provided by this agency cannot argue for FDA approval of marijuana for any conditions it might be able to treat.

bernie sanders marijuana
[Photo by Theo Stroomer/Getty Images]
The idea of rescheduling marijuana has been a hot topic on the campaign trail. Bernie Sanders has called for taking marijuana off the controlled substances list entirely, which would effectively legalize it, and Hillary Clinton has called for marijuana to be considered a Schedule 2 substance, like cocaine.

The head of the DEA, Chuck Rosenberg, called medical marijuana a “joke” last year, which caused major outrage among medical marijuana advocates. Over 100,000 people signed a petition demanding he resign after that statement. Conversely, he has also said marijuana is probably safer than heroin. That would imply it doesn’t need to be on the same list of drugs as heroin, as it is now.

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