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How is the US Government Studying the Health Benefits of Cannabis? Your Instagram and Facebook Posts, No Joke!

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FDA social media on cannabis

New FDA Report Shows Marijuana Rescheduling May Come Down to Your Social Media Posts about Weed!

 

Marijuana Moment reported a piece on FDA research that you thought was from The Onion.

 

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is drawing attention to its scientific examination of marijuana, which prompted the agency to propose rescheduling. This involved a thorough analysis of research findings, as well as the examination of numerous social media posts to understand how consumers perceive the therapeutic effects of cannabis.

 

Wait, what?

 

Unveiling the FDA’s Cannabis Assessment Journey

 

The Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) of the FDA published its Drug Safety Priorities report for the fiscal year 2023 on Thursday. The study featured several projects that demonstrate the scope and flexibility of the Center’s and FDA’s drug safety activities. An important project that was started in 2022 was the study of cannabis, which was ordered by President Joe Biden.

 

CDER thoroughly examined a wide range of data sources to do an Eight-factor analysis (8FA), a scientific and medical evaluation. Based on the findings of this investigation, the FDA advised the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to reclassify marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule III under the Controlled Substances Act.

 

To bolster the 8FA that was submitted to the DEA, the CDER Office of Surveillance and Epidemiology (OSE) reviewed sources of epidemiological and pharmacovigilance data as part of the agency’s extensive assessment of marijuana.

 

Following the FDA review, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) submitted a letter containing extensive research materials to the DEA, recommending the reclassification to Schedule III. The DEA is currently conducting its review before making a final decision. Despite rumors suggesting an imminent announcement two weeks ago, a Biden administration official dismissed these claims.

 

The FDA’s efforts to reach a scheduling decision also involved a team of social scientists who spent six months conducting a detailed qualitative analysis of online and social media discussions surrounding marijuana. This study involved manually analyzing hundreds of posts from publicly available platforms to gather user perspectives on marijuana, including its therapeutic efficacy for conditions such as anorexia, anxiety, nausea, and pain, as well as non-medical uses, benefits, negative effects, and experiences with access.

 

Additionally, the FDA report highlighted the completion of an assessment regarding the capabilities and utility of various epidemiological, pharmacovigilance, and drug utilization data sources for monitoring the safety of unapproved cannabis-derived products.

 

Delays and Congressional Pressure: The Quest for Clarity

 

It has been over six months since the FDA recommended to the DEA that marijuana be rescheduled, but it is unclear when a final decision will be made. The Congressional Cannabis Caucus’ founder, Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), has been pressing the DEA to be more open about its continuing assessment process throughout this time. He specifically asked for information on the agency’s projected completion date for the assessment as well as if it would take into account the legalization of cannabis in several states.

 

A prior letter from Blumenauer and thirty nonpartisan congressmen caused the DEA to declare its “final authority” over the rescheduling decision, which is when Blumenauer made his request.

 

On the other hand, in a letter to the DEA, a Republican congressman who is well-known for his adamant opposition to marijuana reform attacked the FDA’s suggestion to reschedule cannabis. He called into question the scientific soundness of the FDA’s ruling and suggested the DEA ignore it in the process of reaching its ultimate conclusion.

 

Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), John Fetterman (D-PA), and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), along with other proponents of marijuana reform, wrote DEA Administrator Anne Milgram a separate letter in which they urged the agency to not only reschedule cannabis but also remove it completely from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).

 

Meanwhile, Xavier Becerra, the secretary of health and human services, stated last month that his agency has communicated to the DEA its stance on the rescheduling of marijuana and continues to provide further materials to aid in the decision-making process.

 

Before the release of a significant cache of documents by the HHS regarding its recommendation on cannabis, a coalition of 12 Democratic state attorneys general urged the DEA to proceed with the federal rescheduling of marijuana, citing it as a critical measure for public safety.

 

Diverse Stakeholder Perspectives and Political Implications

 

A group of 29 former U.S. attorneys wrote a letter to the Biden administration in December requesting that cannabis remain listed as Schedule I.

 

In a coordinated letter to President Biden, the governors of six states—Colorado, Illinois, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, and Louisiana—pleaded for the rescheduling of marijuana by the end of the previous year.

 

The federal health agency’s suggestion to reschedule marijuana was opposed by a coalition of six former DEA chiefs and five former White House drug czars, who wrote a letter to the attorney general and the current DEA administrator. They also made assertions regarding the relationship between drug schedules and criminal penalties, potentially overstating the impact of incremental reform. Notably, signatories included heads of the DEA and the Office of National Drug Control Policy from various administrations, representing both major political parties.

 

In a separate initiative, a group of 14 Republican congressional lawmakers urged the DEA to reject the federal health agency’s recommendation and maintain marijuana in the CSA’s most restrictive category.

 

Recent polling suggests that approximately one-third of marijuana consumers would revert to the illicit market if cannabis were rescheduled and only accessible as an FDA-approved prescription drug.

 

Moreover, a recent survey indicated that President Biden could experience substantial political gains if marijuana were rescheduled under his administration’s directive, though it’s important to note that Biden does not directly control the final decision.

 

President Biden has frequently highlighted his 2022 scheduling directive and the mass pardons he issued for individuals convicted of federal marijuana possession offenses. In December, he furthered this action with an expanded pardon proclamation. The Justice Department has already commenced issuing certifications for individuals who applied during the second round.

 

Additionally, Vice President Kamala Harris’s office has been in contact with individuals who received a cannabis pardon, ensuring a smooth process for Justice Department certification and engaging in broader discussions about cannabis policy reform, as reported by a recipient of the pardon who was contacted.

 

Bottom Line

 

In navigating the multifaceted landscape of marijuana policy reform, the FDA’s exhaustive examination of cannabis, supplemented by insights from social media analysis, illuminates the intricate dynamics at play. Despite the agency’s recommendation for rescheduling, political pressures from congressional figures and stakeholders present hurdles towards a definitive decision. The divergent views expressed by former U.S. attorneys, governors, and DEA officials underscore the contentious nature of the issue. Meanwhile, public sentiment and potential market shifts add further complexity, with implications for President Biden’s administration and broader cannabis policy reform. Ultimately, the FDA’s thorough evaluation serves as a focal point in a complex discourse, highlighting the intricacies of balancing scientific evidence, political interests, and societal perceptions in shaping marijuana policy.

 

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