The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) said this week it will decide in the first half of 2016 whether marijuana should be reclassified under federal law.
The agency gave no indication what its decision will be, according to The Huffington Post.
There are five categories, or schedules, for drugs in the United States. Schedule I drugs are considered by the DEA to have the highest potential for abuse and no current accepted medical use. Marijuana is currently a Schedule I drug, along with heroin and LSD. If marijuana were rescheduled, it still would be illegal under federal law, but the change might ease restrictions on research, and reduce penalties for marijuana-related offenses, the article notes.
The DEA was responding to a letter sent last July by eight Democratic senators, who urged the federal government to facilitate research on the benefits of medical marijuana. The senators said the research is needed because millions of Americans are now eligible by state law to use the drug for medical purposes.
The senators said the federal government should use existing tools to collect national data, conduct surveillance and perform clinical trials on patients in states with active medical marijuana programs. They also said the government should collaborate with and support independent scientists, by eliminating barriers to research on marijuana.
“DEA understands the widespread interest in the prompt resolution to these petitions and hopes to release its determination in the first half of 2016,” the agency wrote.
According to the DEA, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has completed a review of the medical evidence of the safety and effectiveness of marijuana. The FDA has given its rescheduling recommendation to the DEA, but the letter did not indicate what the FDA advised.