The United States government is set to reject requests to approve the medical use of marijuana, reaffirming its previous conclusion that the therapeutic value of the drug has not been proven scientifically.
Although more studies into marijuana and its properties will be allowed, the substance will remain under a strict classification, according to sources with direct knowledge on the matter.
The Washington Post reported Wednesday that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) on Thursday will turn down proposals to remove marijuana from its current Schedule 1 classification.
The Schedule 1 category places marijuana as a drug with "no currently accepted medical use" in the country, preventing doctors from prescribing it.
Thursday's anticipated decision is the DEA's response to two former state governors who urged agencies to loosen restrictions on marijuana, said the sources, who requested anonymity.
The decision will keep the federal government at odds with the District of Columbia and 25 other states — including Ohio, Missouri and Pennsylvania to name a few — that have passed laws that allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes to some degree.
The DEA has declined to comment, but on Wednesday sent emails to parties interested in the issue, stating that important announcements regarding marijuana-related topics will be made on Thursday, according to Reuters.
Officials who received the email say the DEA will announce one policy change that could boost the number of marijuana research in the country.
The agency will expand the number of places allowed to grow marijuana for studies of chronic pain relief, as treatment for epilepsy and other medical purposes, sources say.
As of writing, only the University of Mississippi holds a contract with the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) that lets researchers grow marijuana for studies.
The announcements will add to the recent developments in the decades-long policy battle over the status of marijuana in the country.
Pro-medical marijuana advocates have been pushing the government to either move marijuana into a Schedule 2 category, which is a looser restriction, or carve out a special place for the drug in the controlled substance regulations.
A 2015 report by the Brookings Institution said that a move to Schedule 2 would become a sign that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) are "ready to take medical marijuana research seriously."
Unfortunately, sources say marijuana failed in an analysis conducted by the FDA and the NIDA. The FDA concluded that scientific and medical data do not prove that the substance is effective and safe as medicine. This prohibits the DEA from re-classifying the substance.