Nebraska Medial Cannabis Advocates Disappointed With Federal DEA Decision

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A Nebraska state senator and others who have worked several years to legalize medical marijuana in the state say they are disappointed federal authorities won’t lower the classification of the drug.

The Drug Enforcement Administration said Thursday it will not remove marijuana from the highest Schedule I classification for medical purposes.

Schedule I includes such exceptionally dangerous drugs as heroin, LSD and ecstasy. The classification means the drug is considered to have a high potential for abuse, has no accepted medical use in treatment in the United States and that there is a lack of accepted safety for its use under medical supervision.

Schedule II, which advocates hoped for as a reclassification, includes such drugs as oxycodone, fentanyl, opium and methamphetamine.

Sen. Tommy Garrett tried to legalize marijuana for medical uses in the last legislative session but was unsuccessful. His bill (LB643) was filibustered on the second round of debate and went down when it got 30 of 33 votes needed to end extended debate.

Garrett said Thursday he is disappointed by the DEA’s decision. More than 1.4 million Americans are legally using medical cannabis and seeing positive effects, he said. Private institutions and universities have more than outlined its medical efficacy in their research.

Forty-two states and the District of Columbia allow some form of medical marijuana use.

“We have children suffering seizures, veterans fighting opioid addiction and still the federal government refuses to act, not because of any particular medical research, but because of a United Nations convention that took place over 55 years ago,” Garrett said. “Reprehensible. Obama could have been brave, but he choked.”

Shelley Gillen, whose son Will has severe epilepsy and who helped Garrett in his campaign for legalization, wasn’t surprised by the ruling.

“But of course it’s still very frustrating, because we know that it does have medicinal value,” she said, “especially when you have several synthetic FDA-approved drugs of cannabis.”

Prolonged research is a slow and painful process for those who are waiting, she said.

Josie Kranz, a board member of Nebraska Families 4 Medical Cannabis, was also disappointed.

The group is raising money and unifying people to potentially put medical cannabis legalization on a 2018 ballot, Kranz said.

A lot of research has already been done in other countries and at the University of Mississippi, she said.

It’s just a political mess that the DEA doesn’t want to have to deal with, Kranz said.

The DEA studied reclassification of the drug at the request of Govs. Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island and Jay Inslee of Washington and psychiatric nurse practitioner Bryan Krumm of New Mexico.

In a letter to them dated Thursday, DEA Acting Administrator Chuck Rosenberg said that while it may strike some people as odd that marijuana is a Schedule I drug while seemingly more dangerous drugs are Schedule II, its inclusion is not about relative danger.

“It is best not to think of drug scheduling as an escalating ‘danger’ scale, rather specific statutory criteria based on medical and scientific evidence determine into which schedule a substance is placed,” he said.

Since April 2014, Rosenberg said, the number of marijuana researchers registered with the DEA has more than doubled, from 161 to 354. The amount of marijuana available for research has also increased, he said.

The University of Nebraska Medical Center launched a study this summer on cannabidiol use for patients with drug-resistant epilepsy.

If cannabidiol would prove to be safe and effective for treatment of certain medical conditions, Rosenberg said, “that would be a wonderful and welcome development.”

“But we insist that CBD research – or any research – be sound, scientific and rigorous before a product can be authorized for medical use,” he said.

That is the province of the Food and Drug Administration, he said.

If the scientific understanding about marijuana changes, and it could, Rosenberg told the governors and Krumm, the decision could change.

“But we will remain tethered to science, as we must, and as the statute demands,” he said. “It certainly would be odd to rely on science when it suits us and ignore it otherwise.”

News Moderator: Katelyn Baker
Full Article: Nebraska Medial Cannabis Advocates Disappointed With Federal DEA Decision
Author: Joanne Young
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Photo Credit: Seth Perlman
Website: Lincoln Journal Star