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Debating marijuana’s place on the DEA’s schedule of controlled substances

A worker trims cannabis at the growing facility of the Tikun Olam company.
A worker trims cannabis at the growing facility of the Tikun Olam company.
Uriel Sinai/Getty Images

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It’s possible that, by mid-2016, marijuana could be viewed in a very different light by the federal government.

A recent memo the Washington Post obtained from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and other government organizations to eight Democratic U.S. Senators says that the DEA wants to decide whether to reclassify marijuana “in the first half of 2016.” A DEA spokesman tells AirTalk they have yet to publicly comment on the interagency response to Senators Elizabeth Warren and others, and that they have not authenticated the letter or its contents.

Marijuana has long been classified under federal law in the same category as drugs like heroin and ecstasy: Schedule I.

The Controlled Substances Act classifies those drugs as having “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” This classification has long been a point of contention for marijuana activists, who argue that for cannabis to be considered as dangerous as heroin or ecstasy is ridiculous, especially given that several states recognize medical uses for the plant and have passed laws legalizing for medical purposes.

While a decision to reschedule marijuana wouldn’t mean the federal government views it any differently in terms of legality, it would open up opportunities for government funding and research of marijuana and maybe even lessen penalties for marijuana-related offenses. Those against the rescheduling say that it would mostly be a symbolic victory for advocates.

Do you think marijuana should be rescheduled? If so, where? Do schedule definitions need to be revisited? What about the Controlled Substances Act?


John Hudak, senior fellow in Governance Studies and deputy director of the Center for Effective Public Management at the Brookings Institution

Kevin Sabet, founder of Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) and director of the University of Florida Drug Policy Institute