DEA Fails to Reschedule Marijuana, but Opens Path for More Research


The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has decided that marijuana will remain classified as a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act. The decision to keep marijuana in the category reserved for drugs with no accepted medical uses and a high potential for abuse was, according to the DEA, based on consultation with the Department of Health and Human Services. According to DEA administrator Chuck Rosenberg, “If the scientific understanding about marijuana changes — and it could change — then the decision could change…. But we will remain tethered to science, as we must, and as the statute demands. It certainly would be odd to rely on science when it suits us and ignore it otherwise.”2000px-US-DrugEnforcementAdministration-Seal.svg

The fact that the DEA has maintained its position that marijuana has no accepted medical value may come as a surprise to many, especially given the thousands, if not millions, of seriously ill patients who currently use marijuana to treat a number of symptoms and conditions.

In a more positive development, it was also announced that the federal government will be removing major obstacles to marijuana research. The only source of federally approved research-grade marijuana has been the University of Mississippi, and it has been so difficult for researchers to obtain that it has effectively created a research monopoly held by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Now, universities may apply for federal approval to grown their own supply of marijuana, creating fewer roadblocks for researchers in the future.

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MPP’s Rob Kampia Weighs in on DEA Scheduling


In response to the recent decision by the DEA not to move marijuana out of Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, MPP’s Rob Kampia offered the following analysis of the situation, and what the best course of action would be:

In the wake of the DEA’s decision against rescheduling marijuana, the super-majority of the American people who support legalizing medical marijuana might properly wonder, “How bad is this news?”

As the leader of the largest marijuana-policy-reform organization in the nation, my answer might surprise you: It barely mattered which way the DEA ruled.

Back in 1970, Congress and President Nixon placed marijuana in Schedule I, along with LSD and heroin, defining these drugs as having no therapeutic value and a high potential for abuse. Simultaneously, drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine were placed in Schedule II, which are defined as having therapeutic value.

This “Flat Earth Society” view of marijuana has been challenged numerous times since 1970, but the DEA and federal courts have rejected all such attempts, including the Washington and Rhode Island governors’ 2011 petition that the DEA just rejected.

To be sure, moving marijuana to Schedule II would have had symbolic value, showing that prohibitionists were wrong to stubbornly claim for decades that sick people were merely imagining or lying about the medicinal benefits they experienced. However, there are federal criminal penalties for marijuana possession that are imposed regardless of its schedule. Even if the DEA had moved marijuana to Schedule II, growing 100 marijuana seedlings would still land you in federal prison for a minimum of five years…

You can read the entire article at Huffington Post.

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Marijuana Rescheduling No-Decision Met With Challenge From Congress



Earlier this year, the DEA had announced that they hope to have a decision regarding the rescheduling of marijuana within the first half of 2016. That time has now come and gone with the DEA failing to deliver.

A bipartisan coalition of Senators and Representatives has signed a letter to head of the DEA, Chuck Rosenberg, urging the federal agency to remove marijuana and THC from Schedule I, its current status under the Controlled Substances Act.  Schedule I is the most restrictive drug classification that, according to the DEA, is reserved for substances that have a high potential for abuse and no known medical benefits.

“We ask that you clarify this policy immediately, and issue a public statement informing the research community that the DEA, in compliance with international obligations, will accept new applications to bulk manufacture cannabis for medical and scientific purposes, to be approved on merit-based criteria,” the lawmakers wrote.

The letter, drafted by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), also calls for the DEA to loosen restrictions surrounding medical marijuana research and to grant more licenses for the production of research-grade marijuana.  Currently, the only federally approved source of marijuana is the University of Mississippi, whose supply is notoriously difficult for researchers to obtain and frequently alleged to be of sub-research grade quality.

The letter was signed by Sen. Gillibrand as well as Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR); and Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Ted Lieu (D-CA), Jared Polis (D-CO), and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA).

Read here for more information.

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Rep. Blumenauer Calls for Firing of DEA Director


Recently, we shared a story about interim DEA head Chuck Rosenberg referring to medical marijuana as a “joke.” Since then, a petition started by Marijuana Majority calling for Rosenberg to be fired for his lack of compassion for patients and poor understanding of marijuana has garnered almost 100,000 signatures!

Today, Rep. Earl Blumenaur (D-OR), who has been a champion of marijuana policy reform at the federal level, called on Congress to demand that Rosenberg be replaced!

You can watch the coverage from C-SPAN.

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Interim DEA Director Calls Medical Marijuana a ‘Joke’


On Wednesday, interim director Chuck Rosenberg of the Drug Enforcement Agency made some troubling statements regarding medical marijuana.

CBS News reports:

Dir. Chuck Rosenberg

“What really bothers me is the notion that marijuana is also medicinal — because it’s not,” Rosenberg said in a briefing to reporters. “We can have an intellectually honest debate about whether we should legalize something that is bad and dangerous, but don’t call it medicine — that is a joke.”

“There are pieces of marijuana — extracts or constituents or component parts — that have great promise” medicinally, he said. “But if you talk about smoking the leaf of marijuana — which is what people are talking about when they talk about medicinal marijuana — it has never been shown to be safe or effective as a medicine.”

Doctors in nearly half the states and mountains of research definitively show that whole-plant marijuana is effective at treating a variety of conditions. While it is heartening that the director admits some components of marijuana may have medical value and that it is worth having a discussion about making marijuana legal for adults, these statements show a serious lack of knowledge about the substance, especially for the head of a drug control organization.

Rosenberg took over the agency in April after previous director Michele Leonhart resigned in disgrace following criticism for a number of scandals under her watch and embarrassing statements, including refusing to admit that heroin is more dangerous than marijuana in front of a Congressional panel.

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Brookings Institution Report Calls For Broad Reforms in Marijuana Research Policy


Early this week, the Brookings Institution released a report titled ‘Ending the U.S. government’s war on medical marijuana research’, which analyzes the ways in which the federal government hinders effective research, and how these policies could be changed.logo_brookings_-axd_

The federal government is stifling medical research in a rapidly transforming area of public policy that has consequences for public health and public safety. As medical marijuana becomes increasingly accessible in state-regulated, legal markets, and as others self-medicate in jurisdictions that do not allow the medical use of cannabis, it is increasingly important that the scientific community conduct research on this substance. However, statutory, regulatory, bureaucratic, and cultural barriers have paralyzed science and threatened the integrity of research freedom in this area. It is time for the federal government to recognize the serious public policy risks born from limited medical, public health, and pharmaceutical research into cannabis and its use.
The report specifically argues that simply rescheduling marijuana will not be sufficient to remove barriers to scientific study, and that broader reforms are needed. Currently, marijuana is considered a Schedule I drug under federal law, and all research must be approved by the Drug Enforcement Administration.

You can read the full report here.

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Federal Court Ruling Is Big Win for Medical Marijuana Patients, Businesses


A federal judge ruled Monday that a budget amendment approved by Congress prevents the Department of Justice from taking action against medical marijuana patients and providers who are operating in compliance with state laws.

Northern District of California Judge Charles Breyer

Judge Charles Breyer, U.S. District Court. 01/02/2013 060-2013
Judge Charles Breyer (Photo: Hillary Jones-Mixon / The Recorder)

said that by enacting the so-called Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, “Congress dictated…that it intended to prohibit the Department of Justice from expending any funds in connection with the enforcement of any law that interfered with California’s ability” to implement its own state medical marijuana laws. The decision was prompted by U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag’s efforts to shut down the Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana, a prominent San Francisco-area medical marijuana dispensary. Judge Breyer’s ruling is available here.

The Washington Post reports:

When the legislation was passed, advocates and lawmakers on both sides of the issue agreed that the bill basically prevented the DEA from going after medical marijuana dispensaries, provided that such dispensaries were acting in compliance with state law. The DEA, however, didn’t see it that way. In a leaked memo, the Justice Department contended that the amendment only prevents actions against actual states — not against the individuals or businesses or business that actually carry out marijuana laws. In their interpretation, the bill still allowed them to pursue criminal and civil actions against medical marijuana businesses and the patients who patronized them.

The DoJ’s reading of the amendment infuriated its sponsors. They called for an investigation into the Department of Justice’s “tortuous twisting of the text” of the bill, saying it violated common sense. Yesterday, judge Charles Breyer of the U.S. district court in northern California agreed.

Dan Riffle of the Marijuana Policy Project agreed. “This is a big win for medical marijuana patients and their providers,” he wrote in a statement, “and a significant victory in our efforts to end the federal government’s war on marijuana. Federal raids of legitimate medical marijuana businesses aren’t just stupid and wasteful, but also illegal.”

The ruling could discourage the DoJ from creative interpretations of the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment going forward, which should let medical marijuana businesses and their patients in 23 states breathe a sigh of relief.

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DOJ Misled Congress to Influence Medical Marijuana Vote


In a exclusive, Tom Angell reports that the Department of Justice intentionally misled Congress to discourage2000px-Seal_of_the_United_States_Department_of_Justice.svg passage of a budget restriction that would prevent them from spending funds to interfere with state implementation of medical marijuana programs.


Justice Department officials misinformed members of Congress about the effects of a medical marijuana amendment being considered by the U.S. House of Representatives, according to an internal memo obtained by

The amendment, which lawmakers approved in May 2014 by a vote of 219-189 despite the Obama administration’s objections, is aimed at preventing the Department of Justice from spending money to interfere with the implementation of state medical cannabis laws.

But in the days leading up to the vote, department officials distributed “informal talking points” warning House members that the measure could “in effect, limit or possibly eliminate the Department’s ability to enforce federal law in recreational marijuana cases as well,” according to the document. [Emphasis added.]

The newly obtained memo, drafted by Patty Merkamp Stemler, chief of the Criminal Division’s Appellate Section, admits that the talking points were “intended to discourage passage of the rider” but do not “reflect our current thinking.”

Basically, the DOJ told Congress that a piece of legislation they did not like would have more impact than intended. Now that it has been enacted, despite their efforts, they are saying that it does less than intended!

Please take the time to read the full report.

We need laws based on facts. Congress should be able to count on law enforcement to give them accurate information, not propaganda to support their policy preferences.

If you would like to tell the DOJ what you think about these tactics, you can contact the DOJ Office of Legislative Affairs at (202) 514-2141 or via email.


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Louisiana Gov. Signs Two Improvements to Marijuana Laws


Earlier this week, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal signed two positive marijuana-related bills into law — a penalty reduction bill and a flawed medical marijuana program.

The first, HB 149, significantly reduces penalties for marijuana possession! Although penalties will still be harsh for possessing a substance safer than alcohol, HB 149 is an important step forward — it shaves months, and in some cases years, off of cannabis consumers’ sentences. This law is effective immediately.

Gov. Bobby Jindal

While first offense marijuana possession remains a misdemeanor, the penalty for possessing 14 grams or less is now far less severe than it was. The maximum jail sentence is reduced from six months to 15 days while the maximum fine is reduced from $500 to $300. HB 149 also significantly reduces the sentences for second and subsequent marijuana possession charges.

Gov. Jindal also signed into law a bill that could, in the future, support a compassionate medical marijuana program for Louisianans, although it will not allow patients to use the medicine in smokable form.

SB 143 allows Louisiana physicians to prescribe medical marijuana in accordance with FDA and DEA guidelines. Since these federal guidelines don’t exist, this law is not currently operable. Physicians risk losing their prescription license if they use it to prescribe marijuana. But hope remains for future regulatory improvement. Overall, both new laws signed by Gov. Jindal represent improvements for Louisiana’s marijuana policies.

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Louisiana Medical Marijuana Bill Making Progress


Wednesday afternoon, the Louisiana House Health and Welfare Committee approved a bill that is intended to stop the cruel criminalization of seriously ill patients who benefit from medical marijuana. The bill, which has already passed the Senate with a 22-13 vote, now moves to the full House for a vote. If you are a Louisiana residentplease take a moment today to write your representative in support of this compassionate bill — SB 143.

Fred Mills Jr Louisiana
Sen. Fred Mills, Jr.

SB 143, filed by Sen. Fred Mills, Jr. (R), would amend a 1991 law that allows Louisiana’s physicians to prescribe medical marijuana in accordance with FDA and DEA guidelines. Since these guidelines don’t exist, this law has never been operable. Sen. Mills’ proposal requires the Louisiana Board of Pharmacy to develop regulations governing distribution of medical marijuana.

Fortunately, the Health and Welfare Committee replaced the requirement that physicians “prescribe” medical marijuana with one stating that they “recommend” its use. This change was necessary as no physician — even in medical marijuana states — can “prescribe” medical marijuana because of federal law. While this is an important improvement, we are still concerned that the proposed program relies on pharmacies to dispense medical marijuana, which they are very unlikely to do because they are regulated by the DEA and distributing marijuana is a federal crime.

The Associated Press reports that Gov. Bobby Jindal has “no concerns” about the bill.

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