October 14, 2016
Corrections & Clarifications: An earlier version of this story gave the incorrect states in which Pazoo Labs operates marijuana testing labs. They are Colorado and Nevada.
DENVER — Marijuana users, researchers and investors are eager to hear whether federal officials will remove pot from the same drug classification as heroin, LSD and bath salts.
Federal drug officials say they are considering removing marijuana from what’s known as Schedule 1 classification, with a decision expected this summer.
The current classification makes it illegal to prescribe and declares that marijuana “has no currently accepted medical treatment use," although 24 states permit some form of medical marijuana use.
Reclassifying marijuana would make it easier for researchers to work with the plant, which is currently subject to strict limitations and officially can be acquired only from a single government garden. Schedule 2 drugs include morphine, methamphetamine and oxycodone.
“I think it’s just common sense to allow good science to be done,” said congressman
“No one is asking to make it legal overnight. We’re saying, let’s start doing some research on it. It’s common sense,” said David Cunic, the CEO of Pazoo, which runs marijuana testing labs in Colorado and Nevada, which another set to open soon in Oregon. "People are looking for alternatives.”
Cunic, who is also a physical therapist, said he believes marijuana could serve as a safer alternative to prescription opiate painkillers. He said medical professionals are ethically obligated to empower patients with knowledge, and many doctors are concerned about the risks associated with highly addictive and potentially deadly opiates.
Not every doctor is rushing to embrace marijuana, however. Scott Krakower, an addiction disorder specialist at Zucker Hillside Hospital in
"Many patients are unaware that using marijuana can have devastating consequences, including higher risk of developing a mood and psychotic disorder, increased rates of other substance use and potentially dependence to the agent itself,” Krakower said in an email. "In addition, there are concerns with lack of regulation of these products and false advertising of what they contain.”
Concerns such as those raised by Krakower are precisely the reason congressman
The House of Representatives on Thursday overwhelmingly passed a Blumenauer-sponsored amendment that would allow Veterans Affairs doctors to recommend marijuana to veterans, the way a regular doctor can in 24 states. The Senate has passed a similar proposal, but the two versions must still be reconciled. The proposal doesn’t change marijuana’s classification but allows VA doctors to take advantage of existing state medical marijuana programs.
Blumenauer said the fact that both branches of Congress think veterans should have access to medical marijuana should prompt regulators to think seriously about rescheduling it.
“I think this moment is cresting,” he said. “The movement, the momentum, is palpable."
John Hudak, a senior fellow at the
“Doctors are even more risk-averse than Congress is, and the DEA is staffed almost entirely by drug warriors,” he said. Hudak called on the next president to convene a summit on marijuana across America, arguing that the federal government needs to provide more clarity on the issue.
“Pretty soon it’s going to be a liability to oppose reform,” he added. "We’re not there yet, but marijuana is going in that direction.”