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FDA seeking guidance on marijuana reclassification

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With Canada and several U.S. states recently legalizing marijuana, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) is seeking to determine the potential impact of no longer classifying pot as a Schedule I narcotic. Schedule I drugs include heroin, ecstasy and LSD as well as marijuana. The FDA began asking for input on the Federal Register on Oct. 10 and will continue to accept feedback until Oct. 31.
Federal, state and local officials continue to grapple with the consequences of legalization in various parts of the U.S. and, as of Oct. 17, right across the border in Canada. While federal law still regards marijuana as among the most dangerous drugs, it is now considering the impact of potential scheduling changes.
In a public notice, the federal agency said, “FDA is requesting interested persons to submit comments concerning abuse potential, actual abuse, medical usefulness, trafficking, and impact of scheduling changes on availability for medical use of 16 drug substances. These comments 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. World Health Organization will use this information to consider whether or recommend that certain international restrictions be placed on these drugs.”
The drugs being reviewed include not only marijuana but also synthetic cannabinoids, such as K2 or Spice. The FDA considers “substances with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse” to be classified as Schedule I. Marijuana advocates, however, point to the increasing therapeutic use of cannabis and its offshoots. In fact, CBD (cannabidiol—a marijuana derivative that doesn’t actually make the user intoxicated) has been determined by WHO to have medical benefits. WHO is scheduled to meet in November in Switzerland to determine whether some substances should be reviewed as to their classification.
Because it is currently a Schedule I drug, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) considers anyone under the influence of marijuana to be “not physically qualified to drive a commercial motor vehicle.” FMCSA regulations also prohibit drivers from being in possession of the drug. If marijuana is reclassified under federal law, it is unclear what effects the change would have on the trucking industry.

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