Pharmacists Disappointed by DEA Denial to Reschedule Marijuana

The DEA has again rejected a petition to reschedule marijuana, which remains a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has again rejected a petition to reschedule marijuana, which remains a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law.

Although many states have approved medical uses for cannabis—not to mention 4 states and Washington, DC, legally permit its recreational use—the substance has been federally regulated as having “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse” since the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) was enacted in 1970.

Now, for the fourth consecutive time, the DEA says it can’t loosen federal restrictions on marijuana unless the FDA determines that it has a currently accepted medical use. Notably, the FDA can’t decree that marijuana has such a use in part because the drug’s Schedule I status makes it harder for researchers to work with cannabis compared with many other controlled substances.

Still, in a letter to the petitioners, acting DEA Administrator Chuck Rosenberg said the agency will continue to work to meet demand for marijuana research.

“We fully support legitimate medical and scientific research on marijuana and its constituent parts, and we will continue to seek ways to make the process for those researchers more efficient and effective,” he wrote. “…If the scientific understanding about marijuana changes—and it could change—then the decision could change. But we will remain tethered to science, as we must, and as the statute demands.”

Social media-savvy pharmacy stakeholders seemed mostly disappointed by the DEA’s decision. Pharmacists and pharmacy students commented the following on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram when asked whether the DEA made the right move in denying the latest petition to reschedule marijuana:

@Pharmacy_Times @DEAHQ absolutely not. They need to modernize their views on one of the safest medications available to patients #cannabis

— Ryan L Cotten (@medicalmomentum) August 11, 2016

@DEAHQ @Pharmacy_Times withholding hope for cancer patients and seizures in children. Stop the war on drugs and help those who are in need!

— #FlyrodTaylor (@FlyrodTaylor) August 11, 2016

Did the #DEA make the right move in denying petitions to reschedule #marijuana?

A photo posted by Pharmacy Times (@pharmacytimes) on

Aug 11, 2016 at 10:33am PDT

Yes! If it has medicinal value it needs to be treated like a medicine

— GeekPharm (@geekpharm) August 11, 2016

In the wake of the DEA’s denial to reschedule marijuana, only Congress could loosen restrictions on the drug by amending the CSA. Some lawmakers are calling for marijuana to be removed from the CSA completely. Another bill in the Senate would explicitly move marijuana to Schedule 2, while a more conservative proposal would essentially make a carve-out within Schedule 1 for marijuana research.

Meanwhile, several states are set to vote on whether to legalize recreational use this fall.