Pubdate: Tue, 12 Jul 2016
Source: Denver Post (CO)
Copyright: 2016 The Denver Post Corp
Author: John Ingold


No Decision Made As Administration Passes Its Self-Imposed Deadline

The Drug Enforcement Administration flaked on its self-imposed 
deadline to announce whether to reschedule marijuana, and now it's 
not clear when a decision might come.

In April, the DEA told lawmakers in a letter that it was reviewing 
information on rescheduling and "hopes to release its determination 
in the first half of 2016." That hope ended when June did, and a DEA 
spokesman in Washington, D.C., told The Denver Post late last week 
that there is no update on the administration's contemplations of rescheduling.

Earlier this month, DEA spokesman Russell Baer told the tech news 
website aNewDomain, "We aren't holding ourselves to any artificial time frame."

Even after the DEA announces a decision on rescheduling, that 
decision could still be subject to further review and litigation.

All of this counters a purported scoop touted by the Santa Monica 
Observer as "groundbreaking," in which it quoted an unnamed, 
chardonnay-sipping "DEA lawyer" saying that the administration would 
move cannabis to Schedule II in August.

Marijuana is currently listed under Schedule I, which means the 
federal government considers it to have no accepted medicinal value 
and a high potential for abuse. As part of the most recent petition 
to reschedule cannabis, the U.S. Department of Health and Human 
Services has reconsidered marijuana's medicinal value and abuse 
potential. That department has sent a recommendation to the DEA, 
which has not disclosed what the recommendation says.

There's a recent history of the federal government taking longer than 
promised on marijuana issues. After voters in Colorado and Washington 
legalized cannabis possession and use in 2012, then-Attorney General 
Eric Holder said the federal government would announce its response 
"relatively soon." The response didn't come for another eight months.

Whatever the time frame, some federal lawmakers appear to be getting restless.

June 30 - the last day the DEA had to hold to its previously 
hoped-for deadline - U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York sent 
the DEA a letter asking, "that you take immediate action to remove 
'cannabis' and 'tetrahydrocannabinols' from Schedule I." The letter 
was co-signed by U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, a Democrat from Boulder.

Among other details, the letter mentions a proposed DEA rule in 2010 
that would have placed drugs that mimic the FDA-approved drug 
dronabinol - a synthetic form of THC marketed as Marinol - into 
Schedule III. According to the proposed rule, that rescheduling would 
"include formulations having naturally-derived dronabinol" from 
cannabis plants.

According to the letter, drug companies that produced competing 
products objected and the proposed rule was never implemented.

"By proposing that natural generic equivalents be rescheduled to 
Schedule III, the DEA acknowledged that this substance has a medical 
use, regardless of whether it is synthetically made or natural," the 
letter states.

Rescheduling purified components of the cannabis plant, though, is 
still a long way from rescheduling marijuana as a whole. And only 
time - an indeterminate amount of time - will tell whether that happens.
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