The Drug Enforcement Administration’s decision on Thursday to not remove marijuana from the list of the nation’s most dangerous drugs outraged scientists, public officials and advocates who have argued that the federal government should recognize that marijuana is medically useful.
Eight Democratic legislators had urged the D.E.A. to reclassify marijuana to a Schedule 2 drug. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts voiced her disappointment with the decision on Twitter. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York said in a statement, “It shouldn’t take an act of Congress for the D.E.A. to get past antiquated ideology and make this change.”
“Research is the bedrock of science,” he wrote, “and we will — as we have for many years — support and promote legitimate research regarding marijuana and its constituent parts.”
Some experts and advocates argued that ending the University of Mississippi’s de facto monopoly on growing research-grade marijuana was more important to spurring research than reclassifying the drug. Paul Armentano, the deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said that “removing this arbitrary hurdle to research could have more significant ramifications than simply rescheduling from 1 to 2.”
Rick Doblin, executive director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, which is funding a trial of marijuana as a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder in veterans, agreed. “That was the key obstruction,” he said.
Currently Epidiolex, a marijuana-derived liquid, is going through clinical trials to determine its effectiveness and safety for the treatment of seizures in children. It uses cannabidiol, an ingredient in marijuana also known as CBD, that does not induce a high. Mr. Rosenberg said in his letter that if CBD proved safe and effective for the treatment of childhood epilepsy, “that would be a wonderful and welcome development.”
Some drug policy experts nonetheless said the refusal to reschedule marijuana would hamper research. “They are placing researchers in a Catch 22, by saying ‘We are not lifting this research barrier because there’s not enough evidence.’ But then people say, ‘We can’t do research because of this barrier,’” said Michael Collins, the deputy director of national affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance, which supports the legalization of marijuana.
Others were thrilled the D.E.A. did not budge. “At present, rigorous evidence does not support the use of marijuana for medical conditions, especially as short- and long-term consequences are not adequately documented in patients,” said Bertha K. Madras, a professor of psychobiology at Harvard Medical School. “Increasingly, scientific evidence shows marijuana to be harmful, and especially for young people.” She called the agency’s decision “a victory for science that, to me, is very comforting.”
But the key question now is funding, Dr. Doblin said. Will drug companies spend large sums to run clinical trials to develop marijuana-derived medicines?
“One competitive advantage, if you make it through the F.D.A., is insurance companies will cover it,” Dr. Doblin said. But he added that the potential disincentive was obvious: Marijuana is widely available on the street and many states have approved the sale of marijuana for medical purposes.
Source: New York Times