- Neeta Lind, CC by 2.0
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration announced Aug. 11 it will retain its classification of marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance—the agency's highest level of legal regulation, on par with heroin and other so-called "hard drugs."
The announcement reaffirms the DEA's stance that marijuana, which has been decriminalized to varying degrees by half the states in the country, including Washington D.C., does not meet established criteria for medical use and has a high potential for abuse. However, in a letter to petitioners seeking marijuana's rescheduling to a lower level of regulation, DEA Acting Administrator Chuck Rosenberg left a potential downgrade on the table.
"If the scientific understanding of marijuana changes—and it could change—then the decision could change," he wrote. "But we will remain tethered to science, as we must, and as the statute demands. It certainly would be odd to rely on science when it suits us and ignore it otherwise."
Rosenberg's letter was a response to two petitions seeking to reschedule marijuana.
The DEA's announcement wasn't a total bust for advocates of decriminalizing marijuana on a federal level: In a separate move, the agency ordered a policy change to facilitate research into marijuana's chemical composition and its effects on the human body by increasing the number of marijuana growers and manufacturers registered under the Controlled Substances Act. Currently, the only authorized grower is the University of Mississippi.
Applications to become a registered bulk science-grade marijuana grower can be found online.