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US Government Releases Full Unredacted Cannabis Rescheduling Recommendation, Confirming Medical Uses

The fully unredacted 252-page cannabis rescheduling recommendation has finally been made public, confirming for the first time that cannabis has medical uses.

Following a Freedom of Information Act request from Matt Zorn, who sued the government to obtain the unredacted documents, the report has now been released in its entirety and published online.

Despite reports emerging in August last year that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), alongside the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), had recommended the rescheduling of cannabis, this is the first time the recommendation has been officially confirmed.

The analysis found that more than 30,000 health care professionals across 43 jurisdictions are authorized to recommend cannabis for medical uses in the US, with more than 6 million patients suffering from at least 15 different medical conditions.

In order to make the recommendation that cannabis be removed from Schedule I, alongside heroin and LSD, the HHS must make three specific findings.

According to analysis from Mr. Zorn, these include:

  1. Cannabis has a potential for abuse less than the drugs or other substances in schedules I and II
  2. Cannabis has a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States
  3. Abuse of cannabis may lead to moderate or low physical dependence or high psychological dependence

The HHS assessment of cannabis’ abuse potential saw it compare the ‘prevalence’ of and ‘harms’ associated with cannabis and other substances in Schedule I, II, and III. Crucially, the HHS concluded that its evaluation ‘suggests that it does not produce serious outcomes compared to drugs in Schedules I or II.’

“The risks to public health posed by marijuana are low compared to other drugs of abuse (e.g., heroin, cocaine, benzodiazepines), based on an evaluation of various epidemiological databases for ED visits, hospitalizations, unintentional exposures, and most importantly, for overdose deaths. . . . For overdose deaths, marijuana is always in the lowest rankings among comparator drugs,” the analysis stated.

Regarding cannabis as a currently accepted medical treatment, the FDA stated that after reviewing a broad range of data, several studies, expert opinions, and ‘position statements of professional organizations relevant to the indications discussed,’ these supported findings that: “Marijuana has a currently accepted medical use in the United States for: anorexia related to a medical condition; nausea and vomiting (e.g., chemotherapy-induced); and pain.”

Finally, the HHS concluded that while cannabis usage may lead to ‘moderate to low physical dependence,’ the likelihood of a serious outcome was low, suggesting that high psychological dependence does not occur in most individuals consuming cannabis.

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