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Marijuana will remain a Schedule I drug under federal law, according to DEA

Posted on 08-11-16 in News & Announcements, Substance Abuse

Marijuana will remain a Schedule I drug under federal law, according to DEA

Earlier today, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced that marijuana (Cannabis) will continue to remain a Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). This forthcoming announcement will be published on Friday in the Federal Register. In response to the petition to change the schedule of marijuana, the DEA determined that the use of marijuana for any reason — recreational or medical — is illegal under federal law.

The DEA’s announcement to keep marijuana as a Schedule I drug means that any states that do allow marijuana to be used for medical reasons or recreational purposes continue to go against federal law.

Eight states will vote to legalize weed for recreational or medical purposes in the upcoming November election: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri and Nevada, according to CNN. As both the recreational and medical use of marijuana has grown in popularity, so has support for its legalization throughout the country.

Despite state laws that legalize marijuana for recreational and/or medical purposes, it will continue to be illegal under federal law. In fact, marijuana is currently, and will continue to be, classified on the DEA’s drug schedules as a Schedule I drug — the most restrictive category for law enforcement purposes in the U.S. — under the CSA, along with drugs such as heroin and LSD.

The petition, sent from Bryan Krumm, C.N.P., a psychiatric nurse practitioner, U.S. army veteran and director of Harmony Psychiatric LLC in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in December 2009, requested that marijuana be reclassified to any other drug category (e.g., Schedule II, Schedule III, etc.) from its current classification as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). Krumm pointed out that there were several reasons for making this request:

  • The accepted use of marijuana for medical purposes in the U.S.
  • The safety of marijuana used for medical purposes under medical supervision
  • Empirical evidence demonstrating the safety and effectiveness of smoked marijuana
  • The lack of abuse potential for marijuana to be classified as a Schedule I drug.

In an unpublished version of this announcement, the DEA detailed the reasons for denying the petition, based on evaluations conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The letter dated July 19, 2016, states that the reasons for denial include:

  1. Marijuana has a high (actual or relative) potential for abuse.
  2. In the U.S., marijuana has no currently accepted medical uses in treatment.
  3. Marijuana lacks accepted safety for use under medical supervision.

Based on these findings, the DEA concluded that marijuana continues to meet the criteria for Schedule I control under the CSA and that the evidence did not support its removal from this category. The DEA, however, did support further clinical research on using marijuana is warranted prior to its support by the federal government.

As a leading provider of behavioral health treatment, Sovereign Health’s programs offered to patients with mental illnesses, substance abuse and co-occurring disorders are evidence-based and individualized to meet each patient’s specific needs. To find out more about the programs offered at Sovereign Health, please contact our 24/7 helpline to speak to a member of our team.

About the author

Amanda Habermann is a staff writer for Sovereign Health. A graduate of California Lutheran University, she received her M.S. in clinical psychology with an emphasis in psychiatric rehabilitation. Her master’s thesis was written on “The effect of parental codependency on elementary school children’s social and emotional development,” and her research has been accepted for poster presentations at the Western Psychological Association. She brings to the team her extensive clinical background and skills in psychological testing and assessment, clinical diagnosis, research and treatment, and recovery techniques for patients with mental illness. She is a passionate researcher and enjoys staying up to date on the newest topics in the field. For more information and other inquiries about this article, contact the author at