DEA Reaffirms ‘Flat Earth’ Position With Regard To Scheduling Marijuana

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director August 10, 2016

    imgresThe United States Drug Enforcement Administration has rejected a pair of administrative petitions that sought to initiate rulemaking proceedings to reschedule marijuana under federal law.

    Although the DEA’s ruling continues to classify marijuana in the same category as heroin, the agency also announced in a separate decision that it is adopting policy changes designed to expand the production of research-grade cannabis for FDA-approved clinical studies.

    Presently, any clinical trial involving cannabis must access source material cultivated at the University of Mississippi — a prohibition that is not in place for other controlled substances. Today, the agency announced for the first time that it will be seeking applications from multiple parties, including potentially from private entities, to produce marijuana for FDA-approved research protocols as well as for “commercial product development.” This change was initially recommended by the DEA’s own administrative law judge in 2007, but her decision was ultimately rejected by the agency in 2011.

    Below is a statement from NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano regarding the DEA’s decisions:

    For far too long, federal regulations have made clinical investigations involving cannabis needlessly onerous and have placed unnecessary and arbitrary restrictions on marijuana that do not exist for other controlled substances, including some other schedule I controlled substances.

    While this announcement is a significant step toward better facilitating and expanding clinical investigations into cannabis’ therapeutic efficacy, ample scientific evidence already exists to remove cannabis from its schedule I classification and to acknowledge its relative safety compared to other scheduled substances, like opioids, and unscheduled substances, such as alcohol. Ultimately, the federal government ought to remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act altogether in a manner similar to alcohol and tobacco, thus providing states the power to establish their own marijuana regulatory policies free from federal intrusion.

    Since the DEA has failed to take such action, then it is incumbent that members of Congress act swiftly to amend cannabis’ criminal status in a way that comports with both public and scientific opinion. Failure to do so continues the federal government’s ‘Flat Earth’ position; it willfully ignores the well-established therapeutic properties associated with the plant and it ignores the laws in 26 states recognizing marijuana’s therapeutic efficacy.

    Under the U.S. Controlled Substances Act of 1970, the cannabis plant and its organic cannabinoids are classified as Schedule I prohibited substances — the most restrictive category available under the law. By definition, substances in this category must meet three specific inclusion criteria:

    The substance must possess “a high potential for abuse”; it must have “no currently accepted medical use” in the United States; and, the substance must lack “accepted safety for use … under medical supervision.”

    Substances that do not meet these criteria must, by law, be categorized in less restrictive federal schedules (Schedules II through V) and are legally regulated accordingly. Alcohol and tobacco, two substances widely acknowledged to possess far greater dangers to health than does cannabis, are not classified under the Controlled Substances Act.

    A recent review of FDA-approved clinical studies evaluating the safety and efficacy of herbal cannabis concluded: “Based on evidence currently available the Schedule I classification is not tenable; it is not accurate that cannabis has no medical value, or that Information on safety is lacking.”

    Added Armentano: “The DEA’s decision is strictly a political one. There is nothing scientific about willful ignorance.”

    The DEA has previously rejected several other rescheduling petitions, including a 2002 petition filed by a coalition of marijuana law reform and health advocacy organizations, and a 1972 petition filed by NORML. The petitions that triggered this latest DEA action were filed in 2009 by a nurse practitioner and in 2011 by then-Govs. Christine Gregoire of Washington and Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island.

    107 responses to “DEA Reaffirms ‘Flat Earth’ Position With Regard To Scheduling Marijuana”

    1. TheOracle says:

      Flat Earth, why doesn’t it surprise me that the DEA hasn’t de-scheduled cannabis altogether and continues to perpetuate the lie that cannabis has no medicinal value? They’re not giving up and admitting they have been wrong all these decades and up and de-schedule it. Oh no, they’re going to drag out prohibition as long as possible, use prohibition to inflate their budges as long as possible. Waste of money, instead of making money.

      This information leads me to believe that the DEA has no intention of re-scheduling cannabis, but are positioning themselves to recommend more authorized producers for research other than only Ole Miss. They’re going to use the old “cannabis needs more research” stalling tactic. After the DEA approve more producers, they can stall the research with forms, fees, applications, red tape. They historically have taken many years to release their answers to applications and requests for de-scheduling/re-scheduling to the public.

      After some research, the DEA will finally recommend a rescheduing, years into the future. They should have cut to the quick and done all that back in 1996 when Cali passed the first MMJ ballot initiative. Now we have four states and the District that have legalized adult recreational. We have moved past merely re-scheduling it for medicinal purposes, because the American People have de facto de-scheduled cannabis there. The genie is out of the bottle. People know what it’s like to feel out from under oppressive anti-cannabis laws, and they are not going to want to give up that freedom. Freedom like that spreads. It gains momentum.

      I’m hoping the momentum to legalize continues in the elections. Keep hammering that legalize message into the heads of federal politicians.

    2. rosario vivace says:

      our taxes fund these asshole but they dont care cause they know america would never united cause if we did they will be fucked

    3. Deb says:

      At one time there was no DEA. This is 2016 already and have waited 42 years to have freedom to medicate for many things! Time to let US decide what we want for medication and not the Doctor or DEA.
      Great for all my ailments and if Washington DC has it….WHY CANT WE ALL HAVE IT! Nations Capital is playing favoritism and I don’t like it. I live near MSU. Ole Miss been studying for years for the Government so now let us have some!

    4. rosario vivace says:

      we as americans need to stand up they say we are free but that only works if you do as they say if not your not free so land of the free my assets

    5. Don M says:

      Screw the DEA and those that support their actions; like Trump’s choice for VP: Mike Pence!

      Americans love their freedom and will use cannabis whether or not those jerks like it or not. We will use it even if it embraces the black market. We will use it even if it means potentially purchasing a pesticide laced product since, in most states, we can’t buy a safe regulated product.

      Many of us will choose to just grow our own since, for many of us, it is the only way to get cannabis that we can feel safe about consuming. It is also the only way we have to know what strain we are getting since, when purchasing from the local dealer, they generally have no idea. To them it is just marijuana…

      I believe that history, 30 to 40 years hence, will show the DEA and it’s supporters to be no better than the witch burners of Salem MA.

    6. George says:

      Instead of doing the right moral and scientific choice the status quo has been checked. If my state doesn’t legalize mmj in Nobember I’m moving to get treatment elsewhere. Sick of being in constant pain with more harmful pills and these policy mongers can’t acknowledge the fact of real science and patient rights.

    7. Julian says:

      Look at the attention and value to the poetic prose and scientific merit of our deputy director Paul Armentano;


      Every major news outlet is quoting Mr. Armentano’s “flat earth” quote for the DEA. Good job!!
      Ive said it before and I’ll say it again, Americans are in great debt to your services Mr. Armentano. This is the kind of educated yet comprehensible perspective of language we need to get Congress to finally do their JOB and reform marijuana laws to reflect current attitudes and SCIENCE.
      I mean if back in 1970 ignoring peer-reviewed evidence in the Shaeffer Commission that marijuana reduces brain rumors wasn’t enough so Congress could hear some rumor that “marijuana makes you gay,” to pass the Controlled Substances Act, just look at what’s on the cutting edge of marijuana science today;


      Thats right Republicans; marijuana could have treated and prevented Ronald Reagan’s deteriorating death due to alzheimer’s! Oh well, at least my grandma still has a chance at dying with some of her marbles left.

    8. baruch says:

      Ah yes, how “our” government agencies love to flex their muscle, deny people their rights, and seek ever more control for the corporations. Honestly the DEA can go f**k itself.

    9. Julian says:

      This bad news has a few good silver linings;
      1). The retreat of the government pot farm at Ol’ Miss is beginning in earnest. Does the DEA smell a lawsuit? It can’t be good weed because the $#!+ weed they have comin outta that farm is virtually useless for research.
      2). As predicted, the DEA’s hubris has them behaving like the puppy that lost its food barking at its own reflection; They are using the hypocritical government patents on cannabinoids like USPAT#6630507 to broker “biopharmaceutical” compounds such as CBD to various pharmaceutical bidder$ such as GE Pharm. and more recently, KannaLife Services Inc. Problem for the DEA and Big Pharma is, as were discovering with recent alzheimer’s research at the Salk Institute in California is that THC is the MAIN medicinal compound for safe and effective treatment for a variety of brain diseases. So the irony is the DEA just opened access to marijuana research permits at the farm at Ol Miss identifying their unconstitutional selective collusion with these various pharmaceutical companies in direct violation of antitrust laws. What was my question if the year Paul? How many Congressman does it take to shut that fu€king farm down? I think its less than 60 now…
      3). This whole event with the DEA denial to even reschedule is bolstering our marijuana reform movement right before the most pivotal and climactic elections to legalize marijuana ever in our nation’s history.

      The DEA is digging their own grave folks, and they know it so theyre trying to cash out. If we wish to keep them in the run, please share the NORML Congressional Scorecard by typing those two words in the custom search engine above and get your friends and family to vote this year. Marijuana Legalization today is all about electing, donating to and supporting Congressman who support the best marijuana reform policies and supporting our local governments to keep reforming at the local level. We gottem on the run!

      • Julian says:

        Does anyone else think that the DEA opening up research to different facilities is a legal dance to avoid a lawsuit for violation of antitrust laws? And even if it was successful, wouldn’t 45 consecutive years of violation constitute reparations?
        Did the State Department’s interpretation of the Special Sessions Treaty provide the President authority to force the DOJ to provide more facilities of research for marijuana? And if so, couldn’t the President do more before leaving office? Such as forcing the DEA to award permits for research to any qualified institution to grow every variety of strain possible for science?

    10. John9999 says:

      Actually, this might be a good thing for cannabis reform. There’s no doubt that the DEA is an out-of-control bureaucracy, now. There’s also no doubt left that cannabis policy needs to be taken out of the DEA’s hands.

      The cannabis legalization community needs to highlight the Flat Earth press byline and press for Congress to act on legislation formally turning over cannabis policy to the States.

      I was sure they’d reschedule it to Schedule II and turn it over to Big Pharma. However, it looks like the military/prison industrial complex neocons won this battle within the DEA.

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