The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency has denied a petition that would have reclassified cannabis under the Controlled Substances Act. The petition was filed by two former state governors, Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, and New Mexico nurse practitioner Bryan Krumm.
Cannabis is currently a Schedule I drug, classified as a substance that has no medical use and a high likelihood of abuse and dependence. Other Schedule I drugs include LSD, heroin, and mescaline. Possessing any one of these drugs is considered a criminal act under federal law.
Schedule II drugs–deemed to have medicinal value–include highly addictive methamphetamine and opioids like morphine and oxycodone. Opioid addiction kills 80 Americans every day, yet the FDA and DEA maintain that marijuana is less medically useful and more addictive.
In an interview with NPR, Drug Enforcement Administration chief Chuck Rosenberg said that, “This decision isn’t based on danger. This decision is based on whether marijuana, as determined by the FDA, is a safe and effective medicine,” he said, “and it’s not.”
The DEA’s report stated that there is “no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States,” and that there’s “high potential” for marijuana abuse that can lead to “severe psychological or physical dependence.”
However, there’s a growing amount of anecdotal and scientific evidence that marijuana has the potential treat symptoms of a variety of medical conditions and to serve as an “adjunct to or substitute for opiates in the treatment of chronic pain.” Cannabis is also being used to treat heroin and opioid addiction.
Tom Angell, chairman of the lobbying group, Marijuana Majority, released a statement following the DEA’s announcement. “President Obama always said he would let science — and not ideology — dictate policy, but in this case his administration is upholding a failed drug war approach instead of looking at real, existing evidence that marijuana has medical value,” he wrote.
Although state and federal law grow increasingly apart, most everyday Americans have reached consensus on the issue. 61 percent of Americans support marijuana legalization, and it is currently legal for medical and recreational use in four states; 20 states have medical marijuana programs, with more expected after November’s elections.