The Drug Enforcement Administration announced Thursday that it will expand the availability of marijuana to researchers, which should open the door to broader study of the drug.
The DEA 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, remains 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 that measure has not yet occurred. Under the new policy, researchers will need approval from the FDA and DEA to conduct medical marijuana studies.
Learn more about the health benefits and risks of marijuana.