The Drug Enforcement Administration has announced that it will lift restrictions on cannabis research as early as August 2016.
This policy change will open the door for broader study of the drug—increasing the availability of marijuana to researchers. The administration did not, however, change the classification of marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug.
Currently, 25 states allow the use of medical marijuana for conditions ranging from Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's to Crohn's disease and rheumatoid arthritis, despite the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's position that the drug is not a safe and effective medical treatment.
The new policy could lead to increased support for medical marijuana, perhaps leading to a re-classification of the drug in the future.
Medical marijuana, along with legalization and classification of the drug, remain controversial. According to some experts, this policy change is unnecessary, and according to others, it does not go far enough.
Earlier in 2016, the DEA reported that cannabis would likely be re-classified to a schedule II drug—drugs with a high potential for abuse that may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence—but, as mentioned, that measure has not yet occurred. Under the new policy, researchers will continue to need approval from the FDA and DEA to conduct medical marijuana studies.
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