Cannabis does in fact have medical use, and is less addictive than comparable drugs, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) concluded for likely the first time today in just-released documents published on Substack, X and Marijuana Moment.
The long march to federal legalization just took another step forward with the publication of a research review from (HHS). According to a document released under the Freedom of Information Act and requested by Texas lawyer Matthew Zorn, the US HHS recommended (pdf) to the Department of Justice’s Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) on Aug. 23 that cannabis be re-ranked (or, in formal parlance, re-scheduled) on the government’s list of dangerous drugs. They advised that cannabis should be moved down from its Schedule 1 spot (alongside heroin) to a Schedule 3 slot alongside substances like the tranquilizer ketamine and the painkiller codeine.
Lawmakers first placed marijuana in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act in the 1970s, against the advice of medical experts. Today, over 90% of Americans support the medical legalization of marijuana.
In Oct. 2022, President Biden urged HHS to review cannabis’ scheduling status, which resulted in the August recommendation mentioned above. The DEA has not stated when it will respond to the HHS’s recommendation.
A scheduling review consists of two main components: A substance’s medical use, and its potential for abuse. In the past, the federal government concluded that marijuana had no medical use and a high potential for abuse. That is no longer a tenable position.
The HHS concludes:
“Upon consideration of the eight factors determinative of control of a substance (21 U.S.C. 811(c)), FDA recommends that marijuana be rescheduled from Schedule I to Schedule III of the CSA. NIDA concurs with this scheduling recommendation. Marijuana meets the three criteria for placing a substance in Schedule III of the CSA, as set forth under 21 U.S.C. 812(b)(3)”
- “Marijuana has a potential for abuse less than the drugs or other substances in Schedules I and II.”
- “Marijuana has a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.”
- “Abuse of marijuana may lead to moderate or low physical dependence or high psychological dependence.”
On medical use
The HHS review of 2023 found extensive medical use of cannabis in the 40+ states with medical cannabis laws:
more than 30,000 healthcare providers are authorized to recommend the use of marijuana for more than six million registered patients, constituting widespread clinical experience associated with various medical conditions recognized by a substantial number of jurisdictions across the United States.
US HHS Aug. 2023
“More than 30,000 HCPs are authorized to recommend the use of marijuana for more than six million registered patients, constituting widespread clinical experience associated with various medical conditions recognized by a substantial number of jurisdictions across the United States.”
“Based on the totality of the available data, we conclude that there exists some credible scientific support for the medical use of marijuana in at least one of the indications for which there is widespread current experience in the United States.”
On potential for abuse
The HHS review found that most people who consume cannabis do so safely, unlike far more deadly and less restricted drugs.
According to the HHS, “evidence also exists showing that the vast majority of individuals who use marijuana are doing so in a manner that does not lead to dangerous outcomes to themselves or others.”
“Although abuse of marijuana produces clear evidence of harmful consequences, these appear to be relatively less common and less severe than some other comparator drugs.”
Marijuana is in the “lowest ranking group” for “serious medical outcomes, including death, observed in Poison Center data,” the HHS found.
For overdose deaths, marijuana is always in the lowest ranking among comparator drugs.
US HHS Aug. 2023
“The risks to the public health posed by marijuana are lower compared to other drugs of abuse (e.g., heroin, oxycodone, cocaine), based on an evaluation of various epidemiological databases for emergency department (ED) visits, hospitalizations, unintentional exposures, and most importantly, for overdose deaths.”
“For overdose deaths, marijuana is always in the lowest ranking among comparator drugs.”
Stay tuned for more on this developing story.
Originally published on Leafly: https://www.leafly.com/news/politics/us-health-agency-makes-history-admits-cannabis-has-medical-use