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Surgeon general calls on feds to re-evaluate drug classification, including marijuana

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But he's opposed to "across the board" decriminalization of illegal drugs

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U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams has called on the federal government to re-evaluate its drug classification schedule, including marijuana, CTV News reported.

"We need to look at our health laws, rules and regulations, and that includes the scheduling system. I'll take it somewhere else – marijuana," the nation's top doctor said last month at the Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative National Law Enforcement Summit at Harvard Medical School in Boston.

"We need to look at the way we schedule different medications across the board. One of the concerns I have with marijuana is the difficulty folks have to do research on it because of the scheduling system," he told a crowd of national law enforcement leaders gathered to address the ongoing opioid crisis.

Adams also said that he's opposed "across the board" decriminalization of illegal drugs, but that the current Schedule 1 classification for cannabis makes it difficult for scientists to access for research.

"I don't think it's the federal government's place. I don't personally think it makes the country safer," he said. "Local control and local innovation is what I'm all about. What works in Boston, Massachusetts, isn't going to work in Dallas, Texas, and vice versa."

What are Schedule 1 drugs?

The Drug Enforcement Agency considers marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug, which means it has "no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for drug abuse." Other drugs that fall under the same classification include heroin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), ecstasy, methaqualone, and peyote.

The DEA classifies drugs into five categories. A drug is rated on its acceptable medical uses and its abuse potential. In 2016, the DEA looked at the classification of marijuana and determined no reason existed for reclassification.

"[The Department of Health and Human Services] concluded that marijuana has a high potential for abuse, has no accepted medical use in the United States, and lacks an acceptable level of safety for use even under medical supervision," according to a DEA memo.

Schedule II drugs — which are "substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with a high potential for abuse, with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence" — include cocaine, methadone, Dilaudid, fentanyl, Dexedrine, methamphetamine, and Ritalin.

What else?

In September, the DEA released a Final Order reclassifying cannabidiol, containing no more than .1 percent of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), as a Schedule V drug. Cannabidiol, more commonly known as CBD, is a chemical derived from cannabis. THC is the psychoactive compound that makes people high.

The action followed pressure from the Federal Drug Administration and Health and Human Services after the FDA's approval of certain drugs containing CBD.

In another step, buried deep within the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp was removed from the Controlled Substance Act, according to Forbes. Hemp, like marijuana, is a cannabis plant, but unlike marijuana, it contains very little THC, .3 percent or less.

Hemp farming is expected to grow since the plant's legalization, according to Insider Louisville. The plant can be used for paper, clothing, building materials, biofuel, food products, oils and more.

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