FDA Requests Input on Reclassifying Marijuana

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Forbes reported on Friday that the Food and Drug Administration is requesting input on marijuana's potential for abuse, medicinal benefits, trafficking, and the potential impact of rescheduling marijuana.

The FDA is making the request prior to compiling the country's response to the World Health Organization (WHO). The World Health Organization's Expert Committee on Drug Dependence will consider the information before making recommendations about global restrictions on marijuana.

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The Committee will meet in June and present the findings to the Secretary of the United Nations and discuss whether further analysis is needed to decide if the drug's classification should be rescheduled on an international level.

The FDA is requesting that persons from the Ministry of Health in member states be designated to answer the World Health Organization's questionnaires. The deadline for comment submissions is April 23, 2018.

The questionnaires request specifics on marijuana and its compounds, including cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The questionnaire also requests information on the synthetic marijuana drug dronabinol, which is the active compound used in Marinol and Syndros, both approved by the FDA for treating cancer patients in chemotherapy and AIDS patients.

Current Classifications

Marinol is classified as a Schedule III drug, and Syndros is classified as a Schedule II drug under the Controlled Substance Act. Makers of the drug Syndros also make the highly addictive and deadly opioid painkiller fentanyl, which is 50 to 100 times more lethal than heroin.

The manufacturer of fentanyl, Insys Therapeutics, was indicted on fraud and racketeering charges for offering physicians bribes to write more fentanyl prescriptions. More than 42,000 people died from opioid overdoses in 2016 in the U.S., and fentanyl is blamed for fueling the opioid epidemic.

At least 3 people have died in Illinois since early March due to synthetic marijuana. The Illinois Department of Public Health reported at least 89 cases of people bleeding from their eyes, ears, and nose after using the drug.

Officials say that brodifacoum, which is used as rat poison, was found in several of the victims. People who make synthetic marijuana slightly alter the compounds to make it a legal substance and then market it as a safe treatment, but officials are telling the public to stay away from synthetic marijuana. Synthetic cannabinoids are sold under names such as K2, Spice, and Black Mamba, among others.

Natural marijuana is currently classified as a Schedule I drug, the strictest drug category, which also includes heroin. No one has ever died from an overdose of natural marijuana.