The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is now looking to Canada for Marijuana Regulation Advice.

The agency is cohosting a conference later this month that will include a panel examining Canada’s system of legal medical cannabis, according to a notice published in the Federal Register on Thursday.

The session, led by Chris Rose, director of operations for Canadian government’s Office of Medical Cannabis, “will provide an overview of current regulatory framework for the regulation of marijuana for medical purposes in Canada and include information on the licensing process, compliance and enforcement and market statistics,” the conference’s website says.

The news comes in the wake of reports the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) will soon to act on a marijuana rescheduling recommendation it received from FDA. It is not yet publicly known whether the health agency recommended a change in the drug’s classification or if it weighed in for keeping marijuana in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, the most restrictive category, which is supposed to be reserved for drugs with no medical value. DEA is expected to rule by the end of this month.

The fact that FDA is taking a close look at how the Canadian federal government legally regulates medical cannabis could be a sign that the Obama administration is preparing to announce a big change in policy soon. But it might also just be the agency doing its due diligence to begin preparing for changes that seem inevitable at some point in the near- to mid-term future.
“It’s possible that this is part of the administration’s slow progress on the issue generally,” Mike Liszewski of Americans for Safe Access told in an interview. “It makes sense to examine what our allies have done. This could be simply in anticipation that the status quo is not going to be permanent, and that the FDA doesn’t want to be light years behind the curve. If the FDA added this panel to the agenda because they think rescheduling of cannabis is imminent, I’d like to think they would be doing more than this one panel, but I can only speculate on that.”

The FDA session, part of the annual educational conference of the Association of Food and Drug Officials, has been anticipated since at least last December, according to an earlier program draft, which lists it under a slightly different title.

FDA sent its rescheduling recommendation to DEA sometime prior to September 30 of last year, according to Justice Department letter to a member of Congress, as first reported in December.

Patients in Canada can currently obtain medical cannabis through several licensed producers. There are also a number of unlicensed dispensaries throughout the country, which cities have recently stepped up efforts to crack down on.

Meanwhile, the country is moving to more broadly legalize marijuana for all adults, fulfilling a campaign pledge by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Officials have announced that they will soon impanel a task force to formulate regulations, with the government expected to introduce legalization legislation by next spring.

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