Marijuana Will Remain Illegal Under Federal Law, The DEA Announces
Despite growing demand for weed to become legal in the U.S. and the positive examples set the individual states that allow recreational smoking, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) plans to keep marijuana illegal under federal law, the agency announced Thursday. Although the rules surrounding growing weed for scientific research purposes will be relaxed in the Federal Register, it will remain a Schedule 1 substance under the Controlled Substances Act, which means it won’t even be recognized for medical use. This means states with legalized marijuana use for medical or recreational purposes will still be going against federal law.
Currently, 25 states and Washington D.C. allow at least medical marijuana, but the feds refuse to get on board or acknowledge that pot has some medical benefits. Because it has a contract with the National Institute on Drug Abuse to grow the plant for scientific research, the University of Mississippi is the only weed grower in the country with a federal license. Growing in that environment will become easier under the new guidelines, as the DEA eases up on testing the affects of marijuana in treating chronic pain, but the research must be “determined to be scientifically meritorious.”
That won’t help the people who actually want to smoke to help ease their pain (or just for fun), but more research on the drug could help pave the way for it to become legal in the future.
DEA chief Chuck Rosenberg told NPR’s Carrie Johnson the agency gave “enormous weight” to conclusions by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that marijuana has “no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States” and can easily be abused. “This decision isn’t based on danger. This decision is based on whether marijuana, as determined by the FDA, is a safe and effective medicine,” Rosenberg said, “and it’s not.” So, the government doesn’t necessarily think pot will kill you, but it doesn’t see any medical benefits to smoking.
Those who were advocating for legalized marijuana were obviously disappointed by the announcement. Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority, wrote in a statement to NPR: “President Obama always said he would let science — and not ideology — dictate policy, but in this case his administration is upholding a failed drug war approach instead of looking at real, existing evidence that marijuana has medical value.” President Obama has not commented on the news.
The 25 states that have already legalized some form of marijuana use will remain in direct conflict with federal law, though they will likely stay in a weird limbo if the DEA doesn’t take action against them.