The DEA says its priority is the growing opioid crisis, not medical marijuana.
The DEA says its priority is the growing opioid crisis, not medical marijuana. a katz / Shutterstock.com

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The DEA is responding to a claim by an anonymous DEA lawyer that the federal agency plans to reschedule cannabis to a Schedule II drug on August 1. The story was first reported by the Santa Monica Observer. And the Internet of Weed jumped all over it.

(Well, not everyone did. Some realized that the story was based on a single anonymous source and a very questionable scenario.)

However, now the DEA has been forced to comment. As we've reported before, the DEA actually is expected to respond to a petition calling for the reclassification of cannabis. And in an interview with aNewDomain, DEA staff coordinator Russ Baer wouldn't confirm or deny the Observer's report, but gave several indications that rescheduling might happen.

Baer stressed the complexity of the cannabis plant, pointing out its hundreds of chemical actors, or cannabinoids. “Also, we are talking about synthetic THC, CBD (based treatments), oils, extracts edibles,” he said. The challenge for researchers and government agencies 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.”

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Baer also said the federal agency is interested in making cannabis research easier, which rescheduling would accomplish. “We do want to remove the roadblocks for research,” he said.

Initially, the DEA was expected to make a decision on rescheduling by July 1, but now it seems as if the agency isn't sticking to that leaked deadline. "We aren't holding ourselves to any artificial timeline," said Baer.

In any case, Baer's statements reflect the DEA's changing perspective on the Drug War. “We have limited resources, remember,” Baer continued. “Marijuana is important, but our efforts are mainly focused on the nation’s growing opioid crisis."

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