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Obama to allow more pot research, but DEA says it’s still a Schedule I drug

An assistant studies marijuana/cannabis leaves in a laboratory.
An assistant studies marijuana/cannabis leaves in a laboratory.
Michel Porro/Getty Images

The DEA again refused to declassify marijuana’s status as a Schedule I drug today, which it defines as having “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”

This comes just a day after the New York Times said that the Obama administration plans to allow more universities to grow pot plants for research. Currently, only the University of Mississippi has that privilege.

While the DEA’s announcement disappointed marijuana advocates, the Obama administration’s decision to allow further research came as good news for those who hope that the federal government will  loosen its stance on pot.

Until now, there’s been a bit of a catch-22.

The DEA won’t declassify marijuana until the FDA confirms its medicinal qualities, but the FDA won’t do that until there is more substantive research. Mississippi's monopoly on growing pot has limited research, but that could change soon.

While marijuana’s current classification in no way affects Prop 64 -- the ballot measure that could make recreational pot usage legal statewide -- many Californians are still following the DEA’s decision closely. Marijuana’s Schedule I classification imposes a steep tax burden on those in the cannabis industry. Some think that it could prevent the recreational marijuana industry from really taking off if Prop 64 passes in November.

Should be classified as a Schedule I drug? Do you think the federal government should allow increased pot research?

Tune in next Wednesday at noon for a broadcast of “CA Counts Town Hall: The pros and cons of legalizing recreational marijuana.” Larry Mantle and Capital Public Radio’s Beth Ruyak will moderate a panel of experts in Sacramento as they debate the merits of Prop. 64.

Find out more and RSVP here.


Chris Ingraham, Washington Post reporter with a keen eye on marijuana news; he tweets from @_cingraham