Drug Enforcement Administration Holds Fast On Marijuana Regulations


Marijuana DEA

IMAGE: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

The United States Drug Enforcement Administration, commonly known as the DEA, has decided not to change the current status of marijuana but has made strides to ease restrictions placed upon it. The DEA is a federal unit that serves a vital function in the country’s safety. They work directly under the U.S Justice department to handle large-scale cases of drug trade and smuggling as well as to enforce domestic regulations on controlled substances. However, another task they are in charge of is to both judge and categorize these drugs. This in turn relates not to the punishment or severity of a charge, but rather its potential for abuse by the common public. For example, Heroin is a Schedule I substance, this is the highest rank and is thus most likely to be misused. Being an opioid it has highly addictive properties and while the morphine-like effects were commonly used for medicinal purposes, in modern medicine it is nearly obsolete. Cocaine on the other hand is a Schedule II substance. Although it is also addictive, the DEA believes its medicinal uses outweigh the possible damage it can cause. Schedules III and IV consist of drugs such as anabolic steroids and xanax, these pose a considerably meager threat when compared to their higher ranking counterparts.

Marijuana is considered by the DEA a Schedule I drug. It is in the company of such substances as Heroin, LSD, MDMA, and other psychoactive narcotics. The argument against this classification comes from many that would like to gain access to the drug for research. Medical marijuana is most commonly used to alleviate pain derived from autoimmune or incurable diseases that currently do not have medications that can cure or abate symptoms. It is especially effective in cases in which the patient has neuropathic pain caused by nerve damage. For the sake of example some well-known ailments it can be applied to are; Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Crohn’s Disease, HIV, AIDS, Glaucoma, Epilepsy, and a host of other minor disorders. Positive results have consistently been found in research conducted on anxiety disorders along with eating disorders as well. Known as a recreational drug, marijuana has a bad reputation with the masses but the medical properties it possess are undeniable.

Early this year the DEA claiming to reevaluate and possibly reschedule marijuana into a lower category. Passing their deadline more than once on this particular issue they have since officially declared that they will infact not be changing the current status of marijuana. They believe the drug to have little to no significant medical use but this finds us in a bit of a catch-22. Without the proper legal ability to research and develop medical uses for marijuana it will never be established as a proper or official medication, and without such proof it will never be able to lower itself from the Schedule I rank it currently holds. By lowering this rank, avenues for sanctioned research into the drug and it’s applied uses to the disorders mentioned above could be opened. Testing done on mice found that components of marijuana could not only prevent the onset symptoms of Alzheimer’s but improve the memory and the quality of life in patients currently suffering from the disease. Yet, despite these results research has been barred from delving deeper because of the Schedule I status of marijuana. The argument being made by numerous independent and integrated researchers is to lower the rank in order to fully understand and utilize it without decriminalizing the drug completely. Which can be done by the DEA who again dictate not the criminal aspects of a drug and instead focus on the potential medical use in parallel  to the potential abuse.

Not to say the DEA hasn’t made change, they have implemented certain minor adjustments that may pave the way for a lower classification for marijuana in the time to come. The most substantial being the dissolution of the University of Mississippi’s rights to be the sole research entity. The university is the leading institute for medical research on the drug, and although on paper it may seem progressive this infact creates a problem for other researchers. The university essentially holds a monopoly when it comes to testing done on marijuana. Labs across the U.S receive their legal testing material from the university which often cannot satiate the demands of intensive examination. Across all needs, quantity, quality, strain, the university fails to properly provide the resource it was intrusted to cultivate. Deconstructing this monopoly allows third-party research teams to work with marijuana effectively. This small change can make leaps and bounds. It opens up the drug to a larger sample size and most importantly it creates competition which expedites progress. Various clinical trials, product testing and possibly even a market friendly, FDA-approved version of the drug could all be seen in the future.

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