April 07, 2016

Federal Agencies Commit to Marijuana Scheduling Decision by Mid-2016

DEA, HHS, ONDCP Respond to Senators' Requests Regarding Efforts to Facilitate Medical Marijuana Research

Read the agencies' response here

Washington, DC - The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) responded on Monday to a letter from several U.S. Senators requesting information on these agencies' efforts to facilitate medical marijuana research. In the response, DEA, HHS and ONDCP announced plans to release a determination on rescheduling petitions in the first half of 2016 and laid out a scenario for expanding the number of growers to provide marijuana for research purposes. The agencies also mention efforts to examine the potential of marijuana to treat pain, which is especially important in light of the opioid epidemic.

"I appreciate receiving a thoughtful response from HHS, DEA, and ONDCP. The agencies' commitments to making a scheduling decision by mid-year and to providing transparency about the current supply of marijuana for research are significant steps in the right direction," said Senator Warren. "There remain outstanding questions about how NIH and CDC will facilitate and encourage research on marijuana, and I look forward to following up on those issues with the agencies and holding them to their deadline - 'the first half of 2016' - for a scheduling decision."

"The federal government should reduce barriers to researching the potential medical benefits of marijuana, and rescheduling it is the first essential step in that process," Senator Wyden said. "I'm glad the DEA will make a scheduling decision soon. I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues and the agencies to ensure the future needs of researchers and patients are met."

Senator Gillibrand said, "For too long schedule I status for marijuana has been a barrier for necessary research, and as a result countless Americans can't get access to medicine they desperately need. It's past due for the DEA to reconsider marijuana's status. I am hopeful that antiquated ideology won't continue to stand in the way of science and that the DEA will reschedule marijuana to schedule II."

"Rescheduling marijuana and allowing research into its potential medical benefits is plain old common sense and could bring us closer to scientific discoveries that make a real difference in the lives of New Jerseyeans and people across the country," said Senator Booker. "I am grateful to the DEA, HHS, and ONDCP for their response and I hope they will put facts, science, and the potential to help millions of Americans first as they continue evaluating this shift in policy."

This December 21, 2015 letter was a follow-up to one sent on July 9, 2015 and was sent by United States Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.).  In addition to requesting a timeline for a decision on rescheduling marijuana, the Senators pressed for the need to remove the so-called "NIDA monopoly" on producing marijuana for research purposes, improve interagency coordination on research efforts, and improve coordination with states that have approved marijuana for medicinal use to research the ongoing natural experiment through by facilitating surveillance and epidemiological studies.