The long-awaited decision by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration keeps intact a 1970 law that lists marijuana as Schedule 1 drug, one defined as having no medical value. That runs counter to decisions made by 26 states that have already approved use of the drug as medicine.
The DEA’s ruling shocked legalization supporters, many of whom had considered Obama an ally after the Justice Department decided in 2013 to allow Washington state and Colorado to sell recreational marijuana.
In an interview with National Public Radio, which first reported the story Wednesday night, DEA Acting Administrator Chuck Rosenberg said he gave “enormous weight” to advice from the Food and Drug Administration. He said the FDA concluded that marijuana has “no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States” and that it remains highly vulnerable to abuse.
“This decision isn’t based on danger,” said Rosenberg, who was appointed by Obama in 2015. “This decision is based on whether marijuana, as determined by the FDA, is a safe and effective medicine. And it’s not.”
Not everyone agrees the FDA or DEA in this regard.
Four states already have decriminalized marijuana: Washington, Oregon, Colorado and Alaska. Others, including Delaware, California, Maine and Vermont, permit the use of medical marijuana.
Even the Buckeye State plans to relax its pot restrictions. Earlier this year, Ohio’s congress passed House Bill 523 which will legalize medical marijuana. The bill goes into effect Sept. 9.
Ohio doctors soon will be able to prescribe marijuana for patients with chronic conditions such as glaucoma, cancer and multiple sclerosis, although there are a number of restrictions on who qualifies for a prescription and how they can use it.
Smoking prescribed pot is strictly prohibited. Oils, tinctures, edibles and patches will be available, however, as detailed on the state website. So will plant material, as long as it’s used in an approved way such as vaporization.
The Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program still has a lot of work to do before the system is up and running.
“The process to stand up the Medical Marijuana Control Program must be thoughtful and deliberate to ensure the safety of the public and to promote access to a safe product,” according to the OMCP website.
The state has yet to establish dispensaries and legal growers, or even establish many of the rules needed to regulate them. Some regulations, such as those regarding application fees and available licenses for dispensaries, will be in place by September 2017. But the entire process will take an estimated two years to complete — to be finished no later than September 2018.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Rob Hotakainen of McClatchy Washington Bureau (Washington, DC) staff (TNS) contributed to this story.