The list of states that have decriminalized marijuana for medical use is growing, but there are still many rules and stipulations which make it incredibly expensive and difficult for patients to actually get their hands on cannabis. Marijuana’s classification as a Schedule I drug has been a major hurdle for drug researchers seeking to understand the full benefits of the herb, but that might change in a few short months.
Schedule I drugs are classified as such because they have “no medical use and a high potential for abuse.” These substances are considered to be “the most dangerous drugs of all the drug schedules with potentially severe psychological or physical dependence.”
Other drugs in this category include heroin and LSD. And as ridiculous as it sounds, marijuana is more heavily regulated than opioid painkillers, which have killed more than 165,000 people since 1999.  
When and if marijuana ever kills somebody, believe me, I will write about it.
People with conditions that could be potentially treated with marijuana have been calling on the DEA to reschedule the drug, but so, too, have organizations such as the American Medical Association (AMA), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). There is simply too much evidence of marijuana’s healing power to ignore. In fact, a 2014 survey by WebMD and Medscape found that 56% of doctors approve of medical marijuana.
The DEA has put off rescheduling marijuana for years, in one case overriding the recommendation of its own administrative judge. Former governors Christine Gregoire of Washington and Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island initiated the current petition before the DEA in 2011, and the agency said last September that it has all the information it needs to make a decision.
A Shift to Schedule II
Marijuana could be downgraded from a Schedule I drug to a Schedule II drug. It could stand to be downgraded even further – cocaine is also a Schedule II drug. But rescheduling weed would be beneficial to researchers.
Currently, all the marijuana grown for research purposes is cultivated by the University of Mississippi, a letter from the DEA obtained by The Huffington Post shows. As of 2015, this included only 20 shipments to 8 researchers.
The AMA says that the Schedule I status would be reviewed “with the goal of facilitating the conduct of clinical research and development of cannabinoid-based medicines.”
The DEA is considering rescheduling marijuana thanks to the urging of a group of Democratic senators, including Elizabeth Warren and Kirsten Gillbrand, which asked the agency and other federal bodies to initiate a research strategy due to the growing pool of medical marijuana users.
But the DEA may face an internal hurdle of its own: agency head Chuck Rosenberg, who said, foolishly and ignorantly in November:
“What really bothers me is the notion that marijuana is also medicinal — because it’s not. We can have an intellectually honest debate about whether we should legalize something that is bad and dangerous, but don’t call it medicine — that is a joke.” 
It’s time for Rosenberg to sift through existing research and kick the marijuana stigma to the curb. Twenty-three states in the U.S. and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana. Rosenberg’s comments angered a lot of people, and tens of thousands of individuals signed a petition demanding the DEA head’s resignation.
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Julie Fidler is a freelance writer, legal blogger, and the author of Adventures in Holy Matrimony: For Better or the Absolute Worst. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two ridiculously spoiled cats. She occasionally pontificates on her blog.