Who Is To Blame For Cannabis Still Being a Schedule 1 Drug?

Is it the fault of the DEA or HHS?

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This story originally appeared on Benzinga

Does marijuana have medical value? That is the question. And the answer depends on whom you ask.

On the one hand, we have 36 states plus the District of Columbia saying yes it does through their legal medical cannabis programs. Then, on the federal level, authorities insist the answer is no, which is keeping marijuana categorized as a Schedule 1 Substance, meaning it has no accepted medical value and high abuse potential.

The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) issued a letter recently to the  White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) asking for help in resolving the long-standing dispute over the violation of the Information Quality Act in relation to cannabis, reported Marijuana Moment.

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What Happened – DEA Vs. HHS 

Two federal agencies – the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have been exchanging blame over which one of them is responsible for setting up an independent, peer-reviewed study on the medical potential of marijuana. 

CEI claims federal law demands a peer review of the scientific evidence that has been used to reject proposals for cannabis rescheduling.

“HHS claims DEA was responsible for IQA compliance because DEA disseminated the evaluation without HHS approval,” the group said. “DEA claims compliance was HHS’s responsibility because the evaluation was performed by HHS.”

CEI has noted that the scientific evidence, which HHS has given the DEA and which has been used to keep marijuana classified as Schedule 1 Substance, is defective. 

‘Follow The Science’

New peer-review data may help clear the way for cannabis rescheduling, the CEI highlights.

“Our view is that both agencies failed in their duties under the act. HHS should have peer-reviewed the information before it sent the report to [Food and Drug Administration], given that HHS knew that information would be disseminated and relied upon for regulatory action by FDA as required by statute,” according to CEI's letter to the White House. “And DEA should not have published the HHS evaluation without first ensuring that the IQA requirements had been met (arranging for the peer review itself if HHS would not).”

The group further noted that “President Biden has pledged to ‘follow the science.’ And that is all we have asked for that independent scientific experts be asked to follow the science and report on if they believe the scientific claims of HHS are accurate. We believe once that is done, those scientific experts will agree, along with the vast majority of states and medical organizations, that marijuana does have some medical uses and as such cannot properly be classified as a Schedule I drug.”

Back in 2016, the DEA denied a petition to consider rescheduling cannabis relying mostly on the HHS’s findings.

RELATED: Cannabis Myth Dispelled: The Science Isn't There Yet

Could peer-review make the difference? 

Some legal experts believe that while a peer review could help with collecting more science-based data on cannabis, it will not be enough for marijuana rescheduling.

“While peer review would be helpful, it will never get to the core problem with federal marijuana policy,” Shane Pennington, an attorney who’s been involved in lawsuits against DEA over marijuana scheduling, told Marijuana Moment.

“That is because FDA’s scientific evaluation of marijuana…is warped by DEA’s long-standing five-part test for determining whether marijuana has a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the U.S.,” he said. “That five-part standard warps the science, and it was designed to do so.”