DEA Official Pumps Brakes on Cannabis Rescheduling Announcement

Published on June 21, 2016 · Last updated July 28, 2020

Despite several widely circulated media reports that the DEA is planning to effectively legalize medical cannabis this August, a DEA official said no definite decision has been made.

In an interview published earlier today by aNewDomain, DEA Staff Coordinator Russ Baer declined to confirm the original Santa Monica Observer report that the DEA will reschedule cannabis as a prescription-only Schedule II drug on Aug. 1. “We aren’t holding ourselves to any artificial timeframe,” he said.

The Observer report created a stir over the weekend, and generated many skeptics, based on the fact that staff writer Stan Greene’s story relied only on an anonymous “DEA lawyer with knowledge of the matter.”

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The report has served, however, to elicit more information than the DEA usually gives out. Baer went on at length about the DEA’s thoughts around legalizing medical marijuana and how rescheduling might work. 

According to Baer, the decision to reschedule is a difficult one, because the biochemistry of cannabis is so complex and there are many uses and forms of medical cannabis.

“We are talking about synthetic THC, CBD, oils, extract, edibles,” he said. 

The challenge for researchers and government agencies, Baer added, is to “identify the parts of the plant that might have benefit, and separating out (the beneficial) parts from the ones that aren’t beneficial or harmful.” 

In another story that ran a few days ago in The Denver Post, cannabis policy attorney Tom Downey said, “[The DEA] could partially legalize medical marijuana, and the federal government could usher in a new era with a comprehensive and multi-structural approach to pot policy.” They would do this by rescheduling cannabis to a federal prescription system, which would also leave to individual states the decision of how to handle medical and recreational use. 

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Baer also talked about how media reports of the DEA’s potential announcement were completely false. According to him, “We are not holding ourselves to any artificial timeline.” He also mentioned that one of the main reasons the DEA wants to reschedule cannabis is to make research easier. 

Either way, it will be interesting to see what, if anything, the DEA does in relation to the rescheduling of cannabis. Continue to follow Leafly News for more updates. 

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Gage Peake
Gage Peake
Gage Peake is a former staff writer for Leafly, where he specialized in data journalism, sports, and breaking news coverage. He's a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's College of Journalism and Mass Communications.
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