The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration is still considering whether to reschedule marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act, an agency spokesman said Tuesday.
Earlier this year, DEA officials told lawmakers that the agency “hopes to release its determination in the first half of 2016″ on rescheduling cannabis — currently classified as a Schedule I substance, the most restrictive qualification, according to an April 4 letter.
The first half of the year came and went with no word out of the DEA. And although rumors have swirled that the needle will move in one direction or another, the DEA remains in the “final stages” of the inter-agency process and has yet to make a decision, said Russ Baer, an agency spokesman.
Baer spoke at length with tech news site aNewDomain in June about the scheduling process, the DEA’s position on research and factors that play into a decision.
“But I can’t give you a time frame as to when we may announce a decision,” he told The Cannabist on Tuesday. “We’re closer than we were a month ago. It’s a very deliberate process.”
The DEA is working through its eight-factor analysis, as required under the Controlled Substances Act, Baer said.
As of April 4, the Department of Health and Human Services submitted scientific and medical evaluations as well as a scheduling recommendation. The DEA was consulting with the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institute on Drug Abuse about exploring additional scientific evaluations, DEA officials wrote in a letter to lawmakers.
Baer declined to disclose the recommendation or findings from the HHS, but said that once a decision is made, the DEA’s deliberations will be posted in the federal registry for public viewing as will the FDA and other agencies’ deliberations. The DEA will also release a press release when a decision is made, he said.
Officials for the HHS deferred comment to the FDA, which declined to comment.
Schedule I substances, as defined by the CSA, are the “most dangerous drugs” and have a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use. As the schedule changes, progressing to Schedule II, Schedule III, Schedule IV and Schedule V, the potentials for abuse as well as psychological and physical dependence decline.
Industry experts projected that if marijuana were to be rescheduled as a Schedule II substance, that could remove some roadblocks for research, allow physicians to prescribe cannabis and lay the foundation for broader changes in financial and business regulations.
“The real impact would be the ability to conduct research; that would be the single biggest thing,” said Tom Downey, a regulatory attorney with the Denver-based Ireland Stapleton Pryor & Pascoe.”(Rescheduling) would have no immediate impact.”
Downey said that he recently spoke with a DEA official who told him that the agency would not make a rescheduling decision this year. That claim could not be verified.
When asked, Baer said the DEA has not made a determination one way or another.
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