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Leaked Documents Expose Why the FDA Says Marijuana is Not Medicine

Explore 118 pages of marijuana policy decision-making between top government officials.

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Thanks to new uncovered documents, we now have an insider's look at why the federal government does not recognize marijuana as medicine despite the palpable reality that 25 states have legalized the plant for medical use already. The 118-page document contains memos between the DEA's chief, two FDA officials, the governors of Rhode Island and Washington and several other government officials.

Marijuana remains in a more restrictive category than cocaine, oxycodone and the breath-stopping drug fentanyl. According to the documents, one of the reasons the FDA came to their decision is because “Individuals are taking the substance on their own initiative rather than on the basis of the medical advice from a practitioner licensed by law to administer such substances,” officials wrote in a summary.

The Drug Enforcement Administration rejected not one but two petitions to reschedule marijuana last August. The DEA ruled that the marijuana that millions of Americans rely on in 25 states has “no currently accepted medical use.” Instead of handling the issue themselves, the DEA handed the task of deciding if marijuana is medicine to the Food and Drug Administration. According to VICE News, the FDA secretly gave direction during the summer of 2015, nearly a year before the announcement would actually take place.

In a letter to DEA chief Chuck Rosenberg, Acting Secretary of Health Karen B. DeSalvo offers direction. “Marijuana meets the three criteria for placing a substance in Schedule I of the CSA under U.S.C. 812(b)(1). As discussed in the enclosed analyses, marijuana has a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision. Accordingly, HHS recommends that marijuana be maintained in Schedule I of the CSA.” DeSalvo wrote in the letter.

Some documents in the leak had already been publicly availably, but many others had not yet seen light of day. The documents certainly confirm some of the shady reasoning behind the FDA's decision. Only an act of Congress could remove marijuana from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances List.

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