Updated on October 4, 2020.
Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
Despite evidence and testimonies by doctors and patients alike, marijuana is still illegal nationally. The question on everyone’s mind is: “If we have proved that cannabis holds medical value, why isn’t it legal yet?” Why the disconnect between state and federal law?
First, the facts: The use sale, and possession of cannabis over 0.3% THC in the U.S. is illegal under federal law. Marijuana is classified as a Schedule I drug under federal law and is considered to have “no accepted medical use” and have a high potential for abuse and physical or psychological dependence. Cannabis use is illegal (except for some approved clinical studies). However, individual states have permitted its use for medical and even recreational use.
For more than forty years, organizations such as NORML have been petitioning the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to reschedule the substance. Decades can go by before a petition is even considered, but the outcomes are always the same. In all the instances, the DEA and the courts have denied the rescheduling of marijuana.
Evidence reviewed at the federal level claims that cannabis holds no medical value despite the fact that THC was rescheduled in pill form in 1985. So how can “a part of cannabis” hold medical value but somehow in its natural form…it holds no medical value? The answer? Stubborn resistance at the federal level.
The Catch 22
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the DEA are allies. Where it takes them months to pass medications, the FDA relies on the DEA’s discretion to assist them on subjects like cannabis, considered a “drug.”
In other words, some say the DEA uses the excuse that there is no “FDA approved marijuana preparations” to support their stance on cannabis prohibition. On the other hand, the FDA claims that they cannot approve it since “marijuana” can’t be placed through clinical trials in terms of consistency, dosage and preparation practices. However, cannabis is classified as a Schedule I making research and the fabrication of consistent doses and preparation practices nearly impossible. Hence the Catch 22: The DEA won’t reschedule cannabis because of lack of FDA approval and the FDA won’t approve cannabis because of DEA scheduling.
Jumping the “Middle Men”
Americans are moving forward with cannabis legalization despite these agencies standing in the way. The best bet for America is to go straight to Congress, which is currently happening with several bills. If passed, the FDA will shortly afterwards be flooded with requests to approve a wide range of cannabis-based medicine, therapies and applications.