For the first time in eight years, federal health officials will conduct an analysis of whether marijuana should be reclassified under U.S. law.
Douglas Throckmorton, deputy director for regulatory programs at the Food and Drug Administration,revealed the news during a lightly attended congressional hearing last week.
Leaf Science, a Canadian website covering news and facts about marijuana, reported Saturday that the Drug Enforcement Administration apparently asked the FDA to carry out the review to see if marijuana still meets the status as a Schedule 1 drug -- and it has consented.
"Yes, I heard that," said Kyle Romanoff, a Washington, D.C.-based pharmaceuticals lobbyist. "Word is just beginning to get out."
Romanoff told Sunshine State News late Wednesday, "It will take a little while for the FDA to get around to it. Remember, you're talking about the federal government here. I don't even see it posted on their website yet."
The FDA now officially considers cannabis highly dangerous, with no medical use.
This has big implications, said U.S. Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., who is leading the oversight hearing on marijuana research as part of an examination of changing societal attitudes about the drug.
The FDA has reviewed the plant's status twice since the turn of the century -- in 2001 and 2006 -- both times concluding it should remain in the Schedule 1 category, Throckmorton said.
The DEA has since been petitioned to change marijuanas classification and that has been sent to us and were in the process of conducting an eight-factor analysis, Throckmorton told Mica.
The classification is the harshest of the five DEA drug schedules and comes with the most restrictions. Other Schedule 1 drugs include heroin, LSD and MDMA (otherwise known as "ecstasy").
Mica is chairman of the House Oversight Committees government operations panel. A change in schedule could help reconcile some of the differences between federal laws and looser state laws. Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia permit medical marijuana and two, Washington and Colorado, allow recreational use. (New York became the 23rd this week.)
In a post on its website Friday the FDA did note this:
Although the FDA has not approved any drug product containing or derived from botanical marijuana, the FDA is aware that there is considerable interest in its use to attempt to treat a number of medical conditions, including, for example, glaucoma, AIDS wasting syndrome, neuropathic pain, cancer, multiple sclerosis, chemotherapy-induced nausea, and certain seizure disorders.
According to all sources, the FDA will consult with the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the Department of Health and Human Services before it presents a final recommendation to the DEA.
For Florida it will be considered by many a third giant leap into the unknown. Nine months ago there was no constitutional amendment to legalize medical marijuana on the ballot, no Charlotte's Web bill in the Legislature and no consideration of a schedule downgrade for the drug on a federal level.
Reach Nancy Smith at email@example.com or at 228-282-2423.