Pubdate: Mon, 02 May 2016
Source: Mail Tribune, The (Medford, OR)
Copyright: 2016 The Mail Tribune
Note: Only prints LTEs from within it's circulation area, 200 word count limit
Note: By Corvallis Gazette-Times


The federal government says it's reviewing marijuana's status as a 
Schedule 1 drug, a move that - regardless of what you think about the 
drug - is long overdue.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency made the announcement in a memo to 
lawmakers and said it hopes to have a decision ready sometime in the 
first half of this year.

Marijuana has long been classified as a Schedule 1 drug, but the 
classification is as ludicrous today as it was back in the day. The 
Schedule 1 category is for substances which are not considered to 
have "any currently accepted medical use in the U.S., a lack of 
accepted safety for use under medical supervision and a high 
potential for abuse." By point of comparison, heroin also is a Schedule 1 drug.

There's no reason for marijuana to be listed as a Schedule 1 drug - 
and, besides, that bit of business about not having any accepted 
medical use will come as a surprise to the millions of medical 
marijuana users in the United States.

There's another reason why the Schedule 1 listing is vexing: It has 
needlessly complicated important scientific research, not just into 
marijuana, but also into industrial hemp, potentially a very useful 
crop. (Industrial hemp, which can be used for a variety of purposes, 
has very low levels of tetrahydrocannabinol - the substance that gets 
pot users high.) It was almost amusing to watch Oregon State 
University officials tip-toe around this issue last year before 
taking tentative steps to allow researchers there to work with 
industrial hemp. (To be fair, an institution such as OSU will be 
careful about working with a Schedule 1 drug, especially since it's 
potentially putting millions of federal research dollars at risk.)

But there's a lot of research yet to be done into the medicinal 
qualities of marijuana as well, and pulling pot off the Schedule 1 
list would be a substantial step forward for that work.

A recent interview in The Oregonian with Dr. Colin Roberts, a 
pediatric neurologist and director of the Doernbecher Childhood 
Epilepsy Program at the Oregon Health and Science University, 
illuminated some of the issues researchers face. Roberts is working 
with a pharmaceutical company on a drug made with pure cannabidiol 
that has shown promise in treating patients with a form of epilepsy.

One big problem with the Schedule 1 designation is that it requires 
researchers to undergo a cumbersome approval process before working 
with a drug on the list. In the case of marijuana, researchers must 
use pot grown at a government-run facility at the University of Mississippi.

Researchers can't just go out and buy pot at a dispensary, because 
there's no way to verify precisely what they're buying - and remember 
that different strains of marijuana have very different properties. 
Taking pot off the Schedule 1 list would allow researchers to obtain 
the sort of independent verification that's essential for meaningful research.

"What we really need in the medical community is really good data," 
Roberts told The Oregonian, "because if we don't have that we will 
never understand the impact of these products good and bad."

Pulling marijuana from the Schedule 1 list would be a first step 
toward getting that kind of good data. What's the holdup?
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom