Federal Agencies Commit To Marijuana Scheduling Decision This Year

Washington, D.C. – In a response to requests from U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and their Senate colleagues, three federal agencies announced plans to release a determination this year about whether to reschedule marijuana.

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 the senators that requested information on these agencies’ efforts to facilitate medical marijuana research.

In the response, DEA, HHS and ONDCP said they would make a determination on rescheduling petitions in the first half of 2016. The agencies also laid out a scenario for expanding the number of growers to provide marijuana for research purposes.

“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,” 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.”

“The government shouldn’t stand in the way of research that could provide important information to Americans about medicinal marijuana,” Merkley said. “I thank the agencies for their response to our letter and look forward to seeing a decision soon on this issue.”

“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,” Warren said. “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 senators’ letter from December 21, 2015 was a follow-up to one sent on July 9, 2015 and was also signed by Sens. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., 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 monopoly on producing marijuana for research purposes. The senators also called to 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.