In the cannabis community, the DEA gets a bad rap. They’re federal cops who’ve been busting weed smokers, growers, and sellers for decades, and the agency takes liberties with the Constitution so long as it’s done to take down drug dealers. But the DEA, like all cops, is “just following orders.” We’ve known for several years now that the DEA’s policies aren’t truly its own, especially when it comes to cannabis. In fact, the DEA’s anti-weed policies come from another federal administration: the FDA.
And now the former Commissioner of the FDA is calling on the federal government to reconsider its position on marijuana.
"If we believe that cannabis has medicinal potential, we should enable suitable research rather than bypass these norms through wholesale legalization," Gottlieb said during an award ceremony at Samford University's School of Pharmacy. However, he stressed that he only supports rescheduling marijuana so it can be legally and easily accessed by researchers, not because he supports “recreational” use.
Currently, the federal government tightly restricts any medical or scientific research that involves cannabis. Marijuana, or cannabis containing more than 0.3 percent THC (i.e. it’s the weed that gets people high), is classified as a Schedule I drug, meaning it is highly addictive, dangerous, and lacks accepted medical use.
Gottlieb cited several major developments regarding cannabis legalization (and prohibition). He mentioned the complications caused by the nationwide decriminalization of hemp, as well as the recent spate of deaths caused by the vaping epidemic. He even noted that the DEA actively obstructs cannabis research in the US by providing only crappy, unusable weed.
"These are addressable challenges. Congress can take specific action to enable easier access to cannabis that’s appropriate for medical research," Gottlieb said. "Ultimately, we need to move past the social stigma around cannabis and address these complex public health and regulatory issues objectively."
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The FDA, which regulates our food supply along with our drugs, is the ultimate federal arbiter regarding all things cannabis. If American scientists cannot conduct legit medical research with weed, it’s because the FDA is blocking it. Ironically, this same FDA will fast-track approvals for pharmaceutical medications made from weed, but it won’t greenlight medical research for whole cannabis flower.
Doubly ironic, while Gottlieb was at the FDA, he clarified the agency’s current positions on CBD as a food additive and as a health supplement. Earlier this year, he stated that CBD as a food additive was banned nationwide. He also began the agency’s crackdown on CBD producers who were making medical claims regarding their products.
CBD is a non-psychoactive component of cannabis that possesses medicinal properties; last year, the FDA approved of CBD derived from cannabis as a treatment for rare epileptic seizure disorders.
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