DEA supports White House scheme to simplify research into Schedule I substances like cannabis and psychedelics

Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

A White House proposal to ease the process of researching Schedule I drugs, such as cannabis and psychedelics, has gained a seal of approval from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and National Institute On Drug Abuse (NIDA).

During a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing that was held on Thursday, December 2, members of both agencies declared their support for the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) research initiatives.

What did the meeting entail?

Although the meeting mainly focused on the classification of fentanyl-related substances, research-focused elements of the proposal – which was introduced by the Biden Administration – could help to alleviate worries among members of the science community regarding the obstacles that still remain for Schedule I drug studying.

Expanding access to Schedule I research is a critical part of DEA’s mission to protect public safety and health,” DEA wrote in a testimony.

Scientists and lawmakers have long-emphasized the fact that the existing regulations for researching Schedule I controlled substances are incredibly burdensome. Consequently, this restricts opportunity to conduct vital studies.

What does the ONDCP’s cannabis research plan propose?

In summary, the administration wants to redraft research rules for Schedule I drugs, such as cannabis, so that they are on-par with regulations for less-restricted Schedule II drugs. 

The existing process requires scientists to first obtain registration via the DEA, but the ONDCP is striving to speed up the approval process so that numerous researchers can get involved under a single registration.

Furthermore, the ONDCP has introduced a policy amendment which, if approved, means that a registration would be required for research institutes that carry out studies in various locations. Currently, a specific registration is required for each individual research site.

An additional element of the administration’s cannabis research proposal would enable a specific group of researchers to proceed with study undertakings, so long as they first file a notification to the Department of Justice.

Finally, another element that could streamline the process of researching cannabis and other Schedule I substances is the waiving of research site inspections.

“Even experienced researchers have reported that obtaining a new Schedule I registration, adding new substances to an existing registration, or getting approval for research protocol changes is time consuming,” NIDA Director Nora Volkow said.

“Unlike for Schedule II through V substances, new and amended Schedule I applications are referred by the DEA to the HHS for a review of the protocol and a determination of the qualifications and competency of the investigator.”