Bioethics Blogs

Weeding Out the Truth: DEA’s New Stance on Marijuana Largely the Same as the Old

by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.

According to the Department of Justice, marijuana offenses account for 12.5% of all people in federal prisons for drug offenses. The FBI reports that 42.4% of all drug offense arrests are for possession of marijuana, which comes to about 620,000 people. Not only is marijuana illegal on the federal level, but it has historically been classified as a Schedule I drug, a designation that is supposed to mean that a substance is highly addictive and has no medical use.

With four states (CO, OR, WA, AK) permitting recreational marijuana and 25 states plus DC, Guam, and Puerto Rico enacting medical marijuana programs, the federal government recently re-examined its long-standing positions on marijuana. Under requests of two governors, the Drug Enforcement Agency was asked to look at rescheduling marijuana so that it is no longer a schedule 1 drug. Part of the reason is that marijuana can now legally (on the state level) be used as a health treatment in over half the country. New studies show medical benefits of marijuana including a RAND study that found a decrease in opioid use (abuse and related deaths) in states with medical marijuana programs.

Last week the DEA announced its findings: It denied the two petitions to reschedule marijuana, mainly on a lack of evidence of efficacy. The irony is that the reason there are few studies on efficacy is because marijuana is schedule I. To conduct a study on medical marijuana (apart from those that show it’s dangers) requires an institution to go through a long and drawn out approval process.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.