DEA Ditches High-Level Federal Health Meeting On Cannabis Research: Another Expression Of Distaste For Cannabis Rescheduling?

Zinger Key Points
  • Tension between the White House and DEA over marijuana rescheduling has been ongoing as some officials do not accept pot's medical benefits.
  • 'We are still in the exact same regulatory environment today as we were when this was announced,' said one gov official.

Officials from several federal health agencies convened this week at a conference aimed at exploring the landscape of cannabis science and policy challenges that researchers face in studying marijuana under ongoing federal prohibition.

The event, organized by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), came at a pivotal moment in view of President Biden’s mid-May announcement to move cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule III under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), making scientific research easier to undertake.

DEA Has Gone Missing

Notably absent from the conference was a representative from the DEA, who was scheduled to address cannabis policy and regulatory issues but, alas, canceled unexpectedly. The agency RSVPed that it could not attend the meeting.

DEA's William Heuett conveyed a message stressing the agency's commitment to assisting researchers through the registration process for studying Schedule I substances like cannabis.

Tension between the White House and the DEA over marijuana rescheduling has been ongoing as some DEA officials seem to be resisting the change on the basis that cannabis’ “medicinal benefits remain unproven and that it has a high potential for abuse.”

Marijuana Moment, which first published the news, reached out the DEA to no avail.

Cannabis Research And Fed Prohibition Don’t Go Well Together

The reclassification of marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule III was a central topic at the meeting. Craig Hopp, deputy director of the NCCIH's division of extramural research, called it the “obvious elephant in the room.” Hopp acknowledged the uncertainty surrounding the potential impacts of this reform on cannabis research, in that there has been no movement as yet from the Biden administration.

"We are still in the exact same regulatory environment today as we were when this was announced, and it will take at least a year for this to actually change," Hopp said at the Tuesday meeting, adding that it remains an open question as to whether the Schedule III designation will ultimately enable researchers to access cannabis from state-licensed dispensaries for their studies. "I guess that depends on how they write the rule."

David Shurtleff, deputy director of NCCIH, expressed optimism that rescheduling would facilitate quicker and more efficient research processes. He reiterated NCCIH's ongoing interest in studying the cannabis plant, regardless of its scheduling status. "Anything that moves research quicker, faster, better—we're all for, and we just hope that this will make life easier for our researchers," he said.

Jennifer Hobin, director of the Office of Science Policy and Communications at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), also addressed the conference, highlighting the challenges researchers face due to restrictions on obtaining cannabis from state markets. Hobin underscored that these limitations hinder a comprehensive understanding of cannabis products and their health effects, a point recently expressed by NIDA director Nora Volkow.

Now Read: 76% Of Primary Care Patients Use Cannabis For Symptom Management, UCLA Study Finds

Photo: Shutterstock

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