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The Drug Enforcement Administration is preparing to decide whether cannabis should be reclassified under federal law in “The first half of 2016,” the agency stated in a document to senators. When the DEA, replied to a 2015 letter from Sen. Elizabeth Warren and seven other Democratic senators pushing the federal government to facilitate investigative studies into marijuana’s medicinal benefits, which did not indicate whether it will reclassify marijuana as less harmful to people. The U.S. has five sectors, or schedules, classifying illegal drugs or chemicals that can be used to make them.

Schedule I is identified for drugs the DEA believes to have the highest risk for abuse and no “Current accepted medical use.” Cannabis has been classified as Schedule I for many decades, along with heroin and LSD. Reclassifying marijuana would not make it legal, although it may ease restrictions on investigative research and reduce penalties for marijuana offenses.

“DEA understands the widespread interest in the prompt resolution to these petitions and hopes to release its determination in the first half of 2016.”

The letter, signed by Acting DEA Administrator Chuck Rosenberg, explains in great detail that the cannabis supply accessible at the University of Mississippi is the federal government’s only sanctioned marijuana nursery. The Food and Drug Administration has completed a review of the medical evidence hovering around the safety and effectiveness of marijuana and has forwarded its rescheduling recommendation to the DEA, in reference to the letter. The document did not display what the FDA recommended. If a demand for research into marijuana’s medical potential were to surpass the University of Mississippi’s supply, the DEA has stated it may contemplate registering additional marijuana cultivators. This is not the first time the DEA has been asked to consider rescheduling marijuana’s classification. In 2001 and 2006, DEA considered petitions but decided to keep cannabis a Schedule I substance.

The DEA’s response is signed by Rosenberg, Sylvia Burwell, secretary of HHS, and Michael Botticelli, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. In addition to Warren, the letter was sent to Democratic Sens. Jeffrey Merkley (Ore.), Ron Wyden (Ore.), Barbara Mikulski (Md.), Edward Markey (Mass.), Barbara Boxer (Calif.), Cory Booker (N.J.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.). Those senators, with the exception of Warren, are co-sponsors of a sweeping bill introduced in 2015 which was structured to dramatically reduce the federal government’s ability to crackdown on state-legal medical marijuana programs while also encouraging more research into the substance.

Tom Angell, founder of Marijuana Majority, a marijuana reform group, said there was “Absolutely no reason marijuana should remain in Schedule I.”Almost half the states in the country have medical cannabis laws and major groups like the American Nurses Association and the American College of Physicians are on board,” Angell said in a statement.


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