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Now's Your Chance to Tell the FDA to Reschedule Cannabis (But Act Soon)

By Carolyn Lipka on April 19, 2018

Even though cannabis famously enjoys statewide legalization in places like California, Washington and Oregon, the federal government and the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs treaty still prohibit it with a Schedule I classification. That puts cannabis in a legal category with drugs like heroin and GHB. Thanks to more cannabis education and research, however, this status might be changing in the near future—and you can have a say in it.

The United Nations World Health Organization is convening an expert panel in June to re-examine the global classification of cannabis as a Schedule I drug. This classification heavily restricts research on related compounds such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and endocannabinoids and pressures member nations to hold off on legislation that would legalize the drug. The Trump Administration, whose public stance on cannabis has ranged from Attorney General Jeff Sessions wrongly conflating its use with the rise of the heroin epidemic to claims of being “100 percent behind medical marijuana” during the campaign, is soliciting input from citizens on what goals the United States should pursue during the panel. That doesn’t sound very glamorous, but it’s actually allowing you to have a voice in formulating a potential reclassification policy. 

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), more specifically, is asking for “interested persons” to submit comments to inform the country’s position through electronic and written submissions before April 23. The FDA is looking for input on “abuse potential, actual abuse, medical usefulness, trafficking and impact of scheduling changes on availability for medical use of cannabis,” it announced in a Federal Register Notice published earlier this week. 

An international reclassification could have wide-reaching implications—especially in the United States, where tensions mounted earlier this year between the federal and state government when Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a memo that indicated a federal cannabis crackdown in states that had legalized the substance. Yesterday, Trump relented on this memo and indicated a willingness to take a softer approach to legalization. This review by the United Nations World Health Organization analysis for potential reclassification comes following a pre-review of CBD—which remains at a Schedule I drug classification—that yielded promising findings for advocates. The pre-review found demonstrable proof of aid in epilepsy treatment and enjoyed a positive safety profile. 

You can submit your comments to the FDA electronically or make a written submission. To tell them to change reclassification, you must visit the Federal eRulemaking Portal here and follow the instructions for submitting comments (and your comment will be public so don’t share your social or personal information) before midnight on April 23, 2018. If you want to include confidential information that you do not wish to make public, you can submit a written comment by mailing your comment to Dockets Management Staff (HFA-305) Food and Drug Administration, 5630 Fishers Lane Fm 1061, Rockville, MD 20852. Any submission must include the Docket No. FDA-2018-N-1072 for “International Drug Scheduling; Convention on Psychotropic Substances; Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs; Cannabis Plant and Resin; Extracts and Tinctures of Cannabis; Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC); Stereoisomers of THC; Cannabidiol; Request for Comments.” 

That’s a lot of technical jargon to wade through before you can submit a comment, but if you feel passionately about the possibility of rescheduling cannabis, make your voice heard. 

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