The federal Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) is proposing significant increases to this year’s production quotas of Schedule I substances including psychoactive cannabis and psilocybin.
The request, according to an announcement from the DEA, reflects increased interest by registrants who order hallucinogenic controlled substances through the agency, especially for use in research and clinical trial purposes.
For context, “registrants” are not part of the DEA, so it’s not the agency itself that plans to use them for research or clinical trials. Typically, registrants work outside the government sector as part of an organization that orders controlled substances through the DEA. A registrant could be a pharmacy owner or an officer at a clinic or hospital. But in its announcement, the DEA suggested its increased stock would go to research and development of new drugs.
DEA sees research as a step toward FDA-approved drugs
“DEA firmly believes in supporting regulated research of schedule I controlled substances," the agency’s announcement reads. "Therefore, the annual production quota increases reflect the need to fulfill research and development requirements in the production of new drug products, and the study of marijuana effects in particular, as necessary steps toward potential Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of new drug products."
“The annual production quota increases reflect the need to fulfill research and development requirements in the production of new drug products, and the study of marijuana effects in particular, as necessary steps toward potential Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of new drug products.”
— U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency
Reporting on the DEA proposal, Marijuana Moment reporter Kyle Jaeger wrote that this request seems to signal a shift in the agency’s attitude toward seeing the therapeutic and medicinal potential of psychoactive substances.
“While the agency has routinely adjusted its production quotas for Schedule I drugs like cannabis in the past, this language is unique,” Jaeger wrote, “reflecting a more progressive attitude toward the therapeutic potential of psychedelics and marijuana as more jurisdictions continue to reform laws governing the substances.”
“This language is unique, reflecting a more progressive attitude toward the therapeutic potential of psychedelics and marijuana as more jurisdictions continue to reform laws governing the substances.”
— Kyle Jaeger for Marijuana Moment
“This is welcome news for researchers and advocates,” Jaeger added. “It shows a willingness from the leading federal drug enforcement agency to recognize an emerging scientific field and promote studies into the substances regardless of their Schedule I status.”
Why are plants and fungi still listed on Schedule I?
In spite of seemingly forward progress, Jaeger noted some remain frustrated that naturally-occurring plants and fungi sit on the list of the nation’s most tightly-controlled drugs. This, in spite of mounting research showing their therapeutic and medicinal uses.
Cannabis’s and magic mushrooms’ place on the list of controlled substances doesn’t appear likely to change in the immediate future, but the collective view of cannabis and its benefits is shifting, undeniably. A judge said as much earlier this week.
“A federal appeals court on Monday dismissed a petition to require the DEA to reevaluate cannabis’s scheduling under the Controlled Substances Act,” Jaeger noted. “However, one judge did say in a concurring opinion that the agency may soon be forced to consider a policy change anyway based on a misinterpretation of the therapeutic value of marijuana.”