As the World Health Organization evaluates all the benefits of cannabis and looks towards international rescheduling, the FDA wants to know what the public thinks about legalization.
On Wednesday, the FDA announced in the Federal Register that it is looking for opinions on the “abuse potential, actual abuse, medical usefulness, trafficking, and impact of scheduling changes on availability for medical use” of cannabis and several other substances that are up for review and possible rescheduling.
Although a CBD (cannabidiol) based drug was recently approved by the FDA, and many other countries have legalized medical (and even recreational) cannabis, it’s still classified as a Schedule I drug in the U.S. and in the global drug policy agreements. Schedule I drugs are considered the most dangerous and addictive of all substances, although clearly, the list is a bit outdated.
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According to Leslie Kux, the FDA’s associate commissioner for the policy, public comments on marijuana’s effects and legal status “will be considered in preparing a response from the United States to the World Health Organization (WHO) regarding the abuse liability and diversion of these drugs.” The information will be used by WHO whether or not the current status of cannabis, along with other substances, should be less restrictive.
It’s worth noting that just because the FDA is asking these questions, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll consider your input. Kate Bell, a counsel member for the Marijuana Policy Project says that these surveys are “just a formality.” Legally, the government is required to ask for public input, whether they utilize it or not is a whole different story.
It’s unknown whether whole-plant cannabis and all of its extracts will be rescheduled, but it looks like CBD is a shoo-in. Last November, the ECDD released a statement claiming that CBD did not have any “abuse or dependence potential.” THC and newly discovered cannabinoids will likely need to be studied further.
Regardless, WHO’s Expert Committee on Drug Dependence (ECDD) will meet in Geneva, Switzerland next month to discuss these reclassifications. It’s still a long and tedious process, however, as international law is known to progress even slower than domestic law. But it’s a step in the right direction.