Federal authorities within the DEA have said that they may be on the path to loosening the classification of marijuana. If this happens, it could impact how well researched and how widely used the substance is in medical settings.
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Marijuana is currently classified as a Schedule I drug, which means that it is listed alongside heroin and LSD as one of the "most dangerous drugs." This means that it has "no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse."
The Drug Enforcement Agency announced that they will be reviewing the possibility of changing it to a Schedule II drug, which would put it in the same category as Ritalin, Adderall, and oxycodone.
This will ease restrictions for researchers, and they will be able to look at what compounds in marijuana can be used to help patients.
The American Medical Association told ABC News that the group will support the review in order "to help facilitate scientific research and the development of cannabinoid-based medicines."
"The Drug Enforcement Administration should work with other federal regulatory agencies to develop a special schedule for marijuana to facilitate study of its potential medical utility in prescription drug products," AMA officials told ABC News in a statement.
"Current standards for approval of prescription drug products require rigorous scientific study. While studies related to a limited number of medical conditions have shown promise for new cannabinoid-based prescription products, the scope of rigorous research needs to be expanded to a broader range of medical conditions for such products," the AMA added.
There was another study published in 2015, from Dr. Kevin Hill, assistant professor of psychiatry at McLean Hospital and Harvard Medical School, that highlighted the need for more research into medical marijuana and what it can do to help us.
There are "hoops you have to run through for this research," Hill said. "If you use marijuana itself, you have to get special licensing from the DEA. It involves a background visit and ... they don’t give it out very easily."
"We know that medical marijuana has good evidence for treatment for a handful of medical conditions," Hill said. "There are thousands of people who are using medical marijuana for a whole host of medical conditions," where the efficacy has yet to be thoroughly studied.
However, changing the classification of the drug would mean that research could find out how and why it works on certain conditions - and if it can do so for others.
"We could move toward a more evidence-based use of medical marijuana," Hill said.
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There are about 60 unknown compounds in marijuana, but many of them have not be able to be studied by researchers. The new classification will help that.