Marijuana legalization, either for medicinal or recreational use, is attracting lots of allies lately that formerly would not have been thought to side with pot.
Law enforcement agents and government officials are starting to come around about the damaging effects of a Prohibition-style “War on Drugs”. The general public is seeing that many of the arguments put forth by legalization opponents are just not holding water any longer.
Areas that have legalized marijuana in one form or another are reporting none of the crime spike or underage use issues that naysayers had predicted. In fact, traffic fatalities and prescription drug overdoses are down in those areas. And, as predicted, tax revenues are up.
Now doctors are starting to speak out about the advisability, and even legality, of classifying cannabis as a Schedule I drug. The scheduling system allows the President of the United States the authority to place a substance on a list that declares it as meeting the following criteria:
* The drug or other substance has a high potential for abuse.
* The drug or other substance has no currently accepted medical treatment use in the U.S.
* There is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or substance under medical supervision.
Some substances currently on the Schedule I list include:
* Heroin (diacetylmorphine)
* LSD (Lysergic acid diethylamide)
* Marijuana (cannabis, THC)
* Mescaline (Peyote)
* MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine or “ecstasy”)
* GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyric acid)
* Ecstasy (MDMA or 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine)
* Methaqualone (Quaalude)
* Khat (Cathinone)
* Bath Salts (3,4-methylenedioxypyrovalerone or MDPV)
Note that marijuana is on this list still, even though doctors in some states do prescribe it, which would seem to defy point two of the definition, above. MDMA is also on the list, even though it was regularly prescribed by psychiatrists for years before its abuse became fashionable.
This is exactly what those doctors now point out.
“[I]t is my considered opinion that including marijuana in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act is counter to all the scientific evidence in a society that uses and values empirical evidence,” Dr. Carl Hart, Associate Professor of Psychology at Columbia University said. “After two decades of intense scientific inquiry in this area, it has become apparent the current scheduling of cannabis has no footing in the realities of science and neurobiology.”
Hart and other doctors are due to testify Monday in a Federal case listed as United States v. Pickard, et. al. This is a significant development in the legalization battle at the Federal level. The drug scheduling arrangement is completely Federal and is defended tirelessly by the Drug Czar’s office.
Bertha Madras, former White House Drug Czar deputy director under George W. Bush, will also testify in defense of the current classification of marijuana as a Schedule I drug.
Madras is fine with using THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, in medicinal applications. But she compares using unprocessed marijuana to achieve that use to other plant-based medicines that are not smoked or ingested.
“Although more than 30% of current therapeutic drugs are plant-derived, no one currently eats or smokes foxglove plants to treat a heart condition, chews cinchona bark to alleviate malaria symptoms, or eats opium poppies to relieve post-surgical pain,” Madras writes.
The problem with Madras’ comparison is that it willingly turns a blind eye to the fact that many people do, indeed, achieve relief of symptoms by smoking or ingesting marijuana. Foxglove is toxic; some have dies from eating it. Marijuana is not toxic at all. In fact, there has never been, in all of recorded history, a death from marijuana overdose.
The opinion that cannabis is not harmful and should not be classified as Schedule I is not new. Richard Nixon is the president who first placed marijuana on the list, against the recommendation of his own National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse “little proven danger of physical or psychological harm from the experimental or intermittent use of the natural preparations of cannabis.”
In addition, Nixon’s Commission actually recommended that possession of marijuana for personal use not be criminalized at all, and that distribution of small amounts for no profit not be an offense.
That was in 1970. It has taken 44 years for this argument to make its way into a Federal courtroom again.