The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) recently revealed they intend to reclassify plant-derived THC from a schedule I to schedule III controlled substance. This could mean that pharmaceutical companies can legally sell cannabis (pills). This is remarkable, because only some months ago the DEA stated in their July 2010 white paper ‘DEA position on marijuana’ that “[M]arijuana has no scientifically proven medical value."
While this may seem like a step towards legalization, many believe that the DEA simply responds to the demands of Big Pharma. Specifically, the DEA's intent is to expand the federal government's schedule III listing to include pharmaceutical products containing naturally derived formations of THC while the plant itself would remain illegal.
As a DEA spokesperson quoted in the story explains, “THC, natural or synthetic, remains a schedule I controlled substance. Under the proposed rule, in those instances in the future where FDA might approve a generic version of Marinol, that version of the drug will be in the same schedule as the brand name version of the drug, regardless of whether the THC used in the generic version was synthesized by man or derived from the cannabis plant.”
So, in other words, if a pharmaceutical product contains THC extracted from the marijuana plant, that would be a legal commodity. But if you or I possessed THC extracted from the marijuana plant, that remains an illegal commodity.
With possession of the plant still illegal, the only legal source for pharmaceutical companies to obtain the THC extracts from, is the federal government.