The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is currently conducting research to determine if marijuana should continue to be classified as a Schedule 1 drug in the US, or if its classification should be downgraded, a step toward decriminalizing the drug at the federal level.
The agency is conducting the research at the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) request, according to a statement from Douglas Throckmorton, Deputy Director for Regulatory Programs at the FDA, at a congressional hearing. The study could lead to the removal of marijuana from the Schedule 1 category of the Controlled Substances Act.
Marijuana’s potential use for a range of medical conditions has gained significant interest over the last few decades. Recently, several states have passed laws that remove state restrictions on health care professionals using marijuana as a medical treatment for a variety of conditions.
Currently, 23 states and the District of Columbia have legalized use of marijuana for medical purposes. Additionally, several other states are considering similar legislation, regarding the use of medical marijuana. Although nearly half of the US states have legalized some form of marijuana, the drug is still classified as a Schedule 1 substance. Drugs that are classified as Schedule 1 drugs have the most restrictions and are considered substances with no medical benefit that are highly addictive.
The reclassification of marijuana could have a significant impact on the cannabis industry, and could help reconcile some of the differences between federal laws and less restrictive state laws.
The agency will make a recommendation after conducting an eight-factor analysis that evaluates marijuana’s abuse potential, its pharmacological effect and risk to public health, among other factors, according to Throckmorton. The FDA must first consult with the National Institute on Drug Abuse and send its recommendation through the Department of Health and Human Services before going to the DEA.
Last updated: 6/24/14; 2:40pm EST