The US government has released over 250 pages of documents confirming that federal health officials recommended rescheduling marijuana to Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act. The disclosure, made through documents from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), established that cannabis “has a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States” and has a lesser potential for abuse than substances categorized under Schedules I and II. More than 30,000 healthcare professionals across various jurisdictions are authorized to recommend medicinal marijuana to over six million registered patients to treat a minimum of 15 medical conditions.
Widespread Medical Use Acknowledged
The HHS noted that there is widespread experience with using marijuana for its medicinal properties, following the programs authorized across different jurisdictions. DEA Administrator Anne Milgram received a letter confirming that the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health believes “marijuana meets the findings for control in Schedule III.” The decision came after the Government conducted an eight-factor analysis to assess the ongoing need for marijuana scheduling—the method involved:
- Measuring the impact of marijuana compared to other drugs.
- Determining whether it has an accepted medical use.
- Examining the risks related to safety and physical dependence.
Evidence Base Indicates Benefits in Pain Management
In their review, the HHS highlighted that the largest evidence base indicates effectiveness in utilizing marijuana for pain management, based on a low to moderate quality of evidence. Furthermore, the agency determined that while there is some support for marijuana as a beneficial treatment option for epilepsy and anxiety, it does not sufficiently uphold this perspective. Additionally, the data used did not focus on addressing any significant safety concerns associated with the use of marijuana for conditions that show potential therapeutic benefits.
Risks Posed by Marijuana Found to Be Low
Comparing marijuana’s risks with other potentially harmful substances, the agency concluded that the risks posed by marijuana are relatively low, especially regarding emergency department visits, hospitalizations, unintentional exposures, and, most importantly, overdose deaths. The DEA is responsible for receiving recommendations related to scheduling, rescheduling, or descheduling of drugs under the guidelines set by the Controlled Substances Act. Given this recent evidence from HHS’s scientific and medical evaluation, the DEA is now conducting its review.
Bipartisan Lawmakers Support Cannabis Rescheduling
The agency’s statement comes in response to an earlier letter from 31 bipartisan lawmakers, led by Rep. Earl Blumenauer, who argued that rescheduling cannabis aligns with a safe and regulated product. As indicated in the governors’ letter, associative polls supported this view, as it was found to be representative of the current opinions held by most Americans. With medicinal marijuana’s proven efficacy across several conditions, including pain management, it remains to be seen how soon the DEA will act upon these recommendations and implement necessary changes.