Although marijuana, for both its medical and recreational purposes, has been under intense scrutiny in past years, a recent announcement by the Drug Enforcement Administration--otherwise known as the DEA--continues to classify the drug as a Schedule I substance.
The decision comes as a bit of a letdown to scientists and researchers hoping to further examine the drug for its psychoactive and medicinal properties. Schedule I substances are, in general, considered to be the most dangerous of used drugs; other Schedule I substances include LSD and heroin, for example.
Placing marijuana in the same category as other Schedule I drugs unfortunately severely limits its ability to be studied, as many in the medical community have argued that less-restrictive regulations are necessary to determine if cannabis can treat conditions like epilepsy or brain tumors.
One of the primary reasons for the classification is, ironically enough, the fact that marijuana "does not have a currently accepted medical use for treatment in the United States," according to DEA acting administrator Chuck Rosenburg in a written statement. "There is a lack of accepted safety for its use under medical supervision, and it has a high potential for abuse."
Unfortunately for researchers, it seems unlikely that further testing will be able to take place without more understanding restrictions. With the drug classified as Schedule I, researchers face a great deal more struggle due to restrictions on how the drugs must be stored and handled. In addition, listing a Schedule I substance on a research project could be potentially off-putting to funding agencies--and for large research boards that have to approve research involving human subjects.
This most updated announcement by the DEA is in response to two petitions to re-classify marijuana as a Schedule II substance. The final decision was in conclusion to a review of scientific and medical literature by the Food and Drug Association (FDA) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Marijuana, for the moment, continues to remain completely illegal in half of the United States; in those which medical marijuana is permitted, however, more than 1.2 million people have acquired medical cards. With more medical research on the horizon, the drug could very well see a rescheduling in more states very shortly.