Marijuana Considered for Looser Restrictions in U.S. Review

Jun 20, 2014 12:03 pm ET

(Updates with congressman’s comment in fourth paragraph.)

June 20 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. regulators are studying whether restrictions on marijuana should be eased, a step toward decriminalizing the drug at the federal level.

The Food and Drug Administration is conducting an analysis at the Drug Enforcement Administration’s request on whether the U.S. should downgrade the classification of marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug, said Douglas Throckmorton, Deputy Director for Regulatory Programs at the FDA, at a congressional hearing.

Schedule 1 drugs carry the most restrictions of the five DEA classifications and are considered substances with no medical benefit that are highly addictive. Factors the FDA considers in making a recommendation include a drug’s abuse potential, its pharmacological effect and risk to public health, according to Throckmorton’s written testimony.

“This has big implications,” said Representative John Mica, a Florida Republican, who is leading the oversight hearing on pot research as part of an examination of changing societal attitudes about the drug.

The FDA reviewed marijuana’s status for the DEA in 2001 and 2006 and recommended it remain Schedule 1, Throckmorton said. The DEA has since been petitioned to change marijuana’s classification and “that has been sent to us and we’re in the process of conducting an eight-factor analysis,” Throckmorton told Mica.

Mica is chairman of the House Oversight Committee’s government operations panel. A change in schedule could help reconcile some of the differences between federal laws and looser state laws. Twenty-two states permit medical marijuana and two, Washington and Colorado, allow recreational use.

Throckmorton wouldn’t say when he expected the FDA to complete the analysis or whether it would recommend a change.

The agency must first consult with the National Institute on Drug Abuse and send their recommendation through the Department of Health and Human Services before handing it to the DEA, he said.