Lawyers Say Marijuana’s Drug Status Should Change


Graphic: Salem News

The New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday published an editorial by two law professors arguing that the federal government should change to a less restrictive status for marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act.

Marijuana’s current Schedule I status, according to the professors, stops researchers from studying the medical benefits and health risks of cannabinoid-based medicine, even though state laws in 14 states allow doctors to recommend the drug, reports Lauren Cox at ABC News.
“Although state laws represent a political response to patients seeking relief from debilitating symptoms, they are inadequate to advance effective treatment,” the professors argue. “Medical experts emphasize the need to reclassify marijuana as a Schedule II drug to facilitate rigorous scientific evaluation of the potential therapeutic benefits of cannabinoids and to determine the optimal dose and delivery route for conditions in which efficacy is established.”

U. of Maryland School of Law
Diane Hoffmann: “We saw, looking at the different state laws, that they’re kind of all over the map”

​”We saw, looking at the different state laws, that they’re kind of all over the map in terms of the conditions they approved and the quantities that they permit,” said Diane Hoffmann, professor of law at the University of Maryland School of Law. Hoffmann wrote the article along with fellow law professor Ellen Weber.
“It doesn’t seem like there’s rhyme or reason for those numbers, and what are they based on,” Hoffmann said.
According to Hoffmann, changing the scheduling of marijuana would allow for much larger clinical trials, and maybe one day U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval, regulation and standardization of cannabinoid delivery methods.
But for now, marijuana is still classified as a Schedule I drug, defined as having no medical use and high risk of abuse.
Medical marijuana users — and many experts — say this classification is simply incorrect.
“I certainly think the current Schedule I classification is ridiculous,” said Dan Pope, who has been using marijuana for six years to help control muscle spasms and pain.
“I have muscular dystrophy, which currently has no cure or treatment,” Pope said. “I know that from my personal experience using medical marijuana that I do have relief from my symptoms.”
While scientific evidence can be used to change a drug’s classification in the federal schedule, Hoffmann argues that with marijuana currently classified as Schedule I, doctors cannot access it to even study it.
“There’s a very elaborate process in terms of approval by the FDA, the DEA and the National Institute for Drug Abuse to be able to perform research on marijuana for medical purposes,” Hoffmann said.
A spokesperson for the DEA declined to comment, claiming the DEA’s role is enforcement, not policy. Yet the DEA’s official website actively campaigns against the medical use of marijuana, and claims, counter to anecdotal evidence and scientific studies, that smoked cannabis has no medical value.
“The Obama Administration has no plans to reclassify marijuana,” the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) wrote in an emailed statement to ABC News. “We support sound research efforts within the FDA-approved process for medication development.”
Yet marijuana research advocates and scientists, among them respected botanist Dr. Lyle Craker of the University of Massachusetts, have petitioned courts and the DEA for years to change the classification of marijuana from the highly restricted Schedule I class to at least a Schedule II — to no avail.