Cannabis Scheduling: The FDA Wants to Hear From You

You have until April 23 to submit comments about cannabis scheduling to the FDA. Go do it already! (Andrew Harnik/AP)

Between now and April 23, the US Food and Drug Administration is accepting public comment from “interested parties” regarding the classification of cannabis. In case you need a quick refresher, cannabis is currently a Schedule I controlled substance—a category reserved for drugs with high abuse potential and no accepted medical use—meaning it’s more tightly regulated than opium or cocaine.

Why now? With the World Health Organization due to review its own international classification of cannabis (including THC, CBD, and other related compounds), the UN agency has asked for input from member nations. Historically, none has been more influential than the United States.

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As it prepares the US response, the FDA wants to hear from you. Go! Comment! The online form is right here.

What Should I Say?

The FDA is a medical body and isn’t, in theory, a political beast. It cares more about your health and behavioral experiences with cannabis than what you think about Henry Ford’s hemp car. Officially, the agency is seeking “comments concerning abuse potential, actual abuse, medical usefulness, trafficking, and impact of scheduling changes on availability for medical use.”

Are you a medical patient who’s experienced health benefits associated with cannabis? Someone recovering from addiction who has successfully used cannabis as an exit drug? An adult-use consumer who used to buy pot on the illicit market but now buys laboratory-tested cannabis at a state-regulated retailer? A doctor who has firsthand experience treating patients with cannabis? Heck, maybe you’re the New Jersey judge who last year called the benefits of medical cannabis “abundant and glaringly apparent.”

No matter who you are, stick to comments that are truthful and sincere. Share your experiences and, where possible, back up your claims with scientific evidence.

regulations.gov cannabis rescheduling
Click the “Comment Now!” button on the issue’s Regulation.gov page to submit comments. (Regulations.gov)

What About Descheduling?

Ten years ago, medical marijuana advocates and others were primarily talking about rescheduling cannabis to a lower level under the Controlled Substances Act, as that path seemed more realistic. Today, mere rescheduling is widely seen as insufficient. A better approach, many argue, could be descheduling cannabis—removing it from the CSA completely and regulating it through different means. Not only would that put cannabis on par with alcohol and tobacco, it’s also more likely to ensure that whole-plant preparations remain available to medical patients.

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