A growing chorus of health and policy experts are lashing out at the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) for its continued classification of marijuana as a dangerous substance like heroin.
After the successful passage of several marijuana ballots on Election Day roughly 20 percent of the country now has access to a form of legal weed. Thousands of studies have been conducted to study the risks and benefits of using the plant, for both medical and recreational use. While the studies commonly agree marijuana can aid in pain relief, research has only been able to show a relationship between marijuana and medical conditions, with few concrete conclusions. Onerous regulations governing weed research are leaving scientists in the dark, reports The New York Times.
Scientists and researchers blame the federal government for tying their hands with an outdated classification. The DEA still labels marijuana a Schedule I drug, leaving it in the same category as heroin. This status makes federally approved and funded research near impossible to attain.
“Regrettably, Congress and the Obama administration have refused to remove marijuana from Schedule I,” writes the New York Times Editorial Board. “Even if Mr. Trump and Congress are unwilling to reclassify marijuana, they could remove the regulatory barriers to research and let scientists get to work.”
The restrictions on marijuana research are so stringent that scientists are prohibited from studying the effects of marijuana extracts and edibles on the brain, even in states where citizens can legally obtain both.
The most comprehensive research in more than a decade on marijuana released Thursday confirmed many of its medicinal benefits, but again, researchers say federal red tape is preventing detailed study. The panel of 16 health experts from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine spent 9 months studying the health effects of marijuana.
The researchers argue the Schedule I designation is leaving medical professionals and the larger public unequipped to understand the repercussions of using the substance, something they charge is irresponsible given the wide availability of marijuana across the country.
Medical marijuana is legal in 28 states and Washington, D.C., where it is also legal for recreational use. Voters in Maine, Nevada, California and Massachusetts all approved measures to legalize marijuana for recreational use on Election Day.
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