DEA: Smoked Marijuana Is Not Medicine

DEA Refuses to Reschedule Marijuana

Marijuana in a jar. Cannabis joint. Medical or recreative
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You may have assumed that marijuana has been proven to be of medical value and its use approved for medical purposes. It would be easy to draw those conclusions because so many states have legalized smoking marijuana for medical use.

But, the truth is the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has never approved smoking marijuana for any condition or disease, and in fact, has concluded that smoked marijuana does much more harm than it does good.

Although research is being conducted on the benefits of medicines that have been developed from the ingredients in marijuana, known as cannabinoids, smoking it is still a serious health concern for health officials and medical organizations.

Danger to Children and Families

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's Demand Reduction Section is concerned that the growing marijuana legalization movement in states throughout the nation is posing a danger to our children, our families, and society itself.

The DEA believes that marijuana legalization "will come at the expense of our children and public safety," and that the myth that smoked marijuana is medicine is sending the wrong message to today's children.

Getting the Medical Facts Straight

To combat those myths surrounding medical marijuana, the DEA published a 30-page booklet, "The Dangers and Consequences of Marijuana Abuse," which outlines the reasons that "smoked marijuana is not medicine."

The publication reports the position of the FDA on the medical marijuana issue, as well as the policies and positions of several national health organizations, which focus on the very diseases and conditions that marijuana is supposed to treat.

The Food and Drug Administration

According to an "Inter-Agency Advisory Regarding Claims That Smoked Marijuana Is a Medicine," the FDA reported that "there is currently sound evidence that smoked marijuana is harmful."

Rather than approving smoked marijuana for medical use, the 2006 FDA memo said that "no sound scientific studies support medical use of marijuana for treatment in the United States, and no animal or human data support the safety or efficacy of marijuana for general medical use."

The American Medical Association

In November 2013, the American Medical Association House of Delegates issued an "AMA Policy Statement on Cannabis, H-95.998," in which the organization said that cannabis is a dangerous drug and as such is a public health concern and the sale of the drug should not be legalized.

The AMA statement did say that individuals who use marijuana should not be incarcerated but treated medically, but much more research was needed before marijuana could be proven to be of medical value.

The American Society of Addiction Medicine

In July 2012, ASAM issued a public policy statement on medical marijuana in which the organization said: "All cannabis, cannabis-based products, and cannabis delivery devices should be subject to the same standards applicable to all other prescription medication and medical devices, and should not be distributed or otherwise provided to patients."

ASAM's statement also discouraged "state interference in the federal medication approval process" and said the organization opposed proposals to legalize marijuana in the U.S.

The American Cancer Society

One of the main arguments for the use of medical marijuana is its reported benefits of helping cancer patients going through chemotherapy with their pain and nausea, but in April 2010, the American Cancer Society issued a position paper in which the organization said it "does not advocate the use of inhaled marijuana or the legalization of marijuana."

The ACS said better and more efficient treatments are needed to overcome the effects of cancer and its treatment and the organization does support more research into the benefits of cannabinoids.

The American Glaucoma Society

The use of marijuana has long been reported as a treatment for glaucoma patients and is one of the most popular reasons that marijuana is prescribed in states where it is legal, but its use is not supported by the American Glaucoma Society.

In April 2012, the organization published a position paper that said, "although marijuana can lower the intraocular pressure, the side effects and short duration of action, coupled with the lack of evidence that its use alters the course of glaucoma, preclude recommending this drug in any form for the treatment of glaucoma at the present time."

Basically, the AGS said the high dose of marijuana needed to produce results was much more dangerous than any benefits.

The American Academy of Pediatrics

In 2004, the AAP published a report, "Legalization of Marijuana: Potential Impact on Youth," in which the organization said that while it supported research into the possible medical use of cannabinoids, it opposed the legalization of marijuana because it "could affect the prevalence of use among adolescents."

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

In June 2012, the AACAP issued a policy statement in which it said, "The 'medicalization' of smoked marijuana has distorted the perception of the known risks and purposed benefits of this drug."

The organization said its main concern was that "adolescent marijuana users are more likely than adult users to develop marijuana dependence, and their heavy use is associated with increased incidence and worsened the course of psychotic, mood, and anxiety disorders."

The National Multiple Sclerosis Society

In January 2013, the NMSS published a report on "Complementary & Alternative Medicines," in which it said, "there are currently insufficient data to recommend marijuana or its derivatives as a treatment for MS symptoms."

The organization supports more research into the possible role of marijuana in the treatment of MS but currently supports other well-tested, FDA-approved drugs for its treatment.

The National Association of School Nurses

In March 2013, the NASN published a "Legalization of Marijuana, Consensus Statement," in which the organization said that marijuana is properly categorized as a Schedule I substance and that "the clear weight of the currently available evidence supports this classification."

The organization pointed out that "there is a general lack of accepted safety for its use even under medical supervision" for so-called medical marijuana.

The American Psychiatric Association

In a November 2013 "Position Statement on Marijuana as Medicine," the APA said that not only is there no scientific evidence that marijuana is effective for the treatment of any psychiatric disorder, "current evidence supports, at a minimum, a strong association of cannabis use with the onset of psychiatric disorders."

Like other organizations in this list, the APA supports research into the medical effects of marijuana, but said the approval for any use of the drug should go through the FDA and "in no way be authorized by ballot initiatives."

DEA Refuses to Reschedule Marijuana

In August 2016, in response to two petitions to initiate proceedings to reschedule marijuana from a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substance Act, the DEA requested a scientific and medical evaluation and scheduling recommendation from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The evaluation was conducted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in consultation with the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

As a result of the evaluation, the DEA denied both petitions to reschedule marijuana as a Schedule I drug because:

  • It does not meet the criteria for currently accepted medical use.
  • There is a lack of accepted safety for its use under medical supervision.
  • It has a high potential for abuse.

The detailed response to the petitioners outlined the factual and legal basis for the denial of the petitions. The DEA response said that the best way to determine if marijuana or its constituents provide safe and effective medical use is through the scientifically valid and well-controlled clinical trials conducted through the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's drug approval process.

No Current Accepted Medical Use for Marijuana

The DEA's 2016 evaluation concluded that marijuana does not meet any of the five elements necessary for a drug to have currently accepted medical use:

  • The drug's chemistry must be known and reproducible.
  • There must be adequate safety studies.
  • There must be adequate and well-controlled studies proving efficacy.
  • The drug must be accepted by qualified experts.
  • The scientific evidence must be widely available.

The DEA found that marijuana met none of the above criteria and that none of the 566 published studies conducted with marijuana meet the criteria of an adequate and well-controlled efficacy study.

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Article Sources

  • U.S. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration. "Denial of Petition To Initiate Proceedings To Reschedule Marijuana." Federal Register 11 August 2016.
  • U.S. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration. "The Dangers and Consequences of Marijuana Abuse." Demand Reduction Section January 2014.