‘No reason’ for DEA to delay marijuana rescheduling, FDA chief says

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There’s “no reason” for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to delay its long-awaited decision on moving marijuana from Schedule 1 to Schedule 3 of the Controlled Substances Act, the head of the Food and Drug Administration told a House committee.

However,  FDA Commissioner Robert Califf seemed to hint Thursday that the DEA could treat adult-use marijuana – now legal in 25 statesdifferently than cannabis used for medicinal purposes.

Such a “bifurcation,” if applied to rescheduling, could have a profound impact on the U.S. marijuana industry, analysts observed Friday.

Tax relief for MMJ, not adult use?

It could mean medical marijuana businesses would enjoy tax relief that adult-use operators wouldn’t.

Califf’s comments came as part of a much lengthier and broader hearing called by U.S. Rep. James Comer, a Kentucky Republican and the chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability.

Among other grievances, Comer took the FDA to task for failing to regulate next-generation tobacco products used to vaporize nicotine as well as the agency’s “refusal to regulate hemp-derived products such as CBD.”

In response, Califf put the onus on Congress, arguing that “existing regulatory pathways are inappropriate” for CBD and “a new regulatory regime is needed.”

Califf’s rescheduling musings came in response to a question from U.S. Rep. Nancy Mace.

The South Carolina Republican, a leading conservative voice for marijuana reform, asked Califf if he had “any update” on the DEA’s evaluation of the FDA’s Aug. 29 findings that cannabis has medicinal value and that the drug should be downgraded from to Schedule 3.

“I don’t even know, but if I did, I couldn’t tell you anyways,” he responded.

“I know there’s no reason for DEA to delay. I think they just have to take into account all the regulations that are in play.”

‘Guidance from Congress’ suggested

Noting “this is an area where we’d be better off if we had guidance from Congress on how to proceed,” Califf then drew a distinction between medical and adult-use marijuana.

“Medical marijuana is one thing, whether there’s a medical purpose and proven through traditional medical pathways,” he said, “but when it’s used for recreational purposes, there is no medical benefit.”

There was no indication whether Califf’s analysis is influencing the DEA’s decision-making.