Marijuana has been listed as a schedule 1 drug since Congress passed the 1970 Controlled Substances Act. Supporters of marijuana legalization have been fighting for decades to convince the Federal Government to change its scheduling of the plant, but so far there has been little progress.
According to the United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), a schedule 1 drug is:
“The drug or other substance that has a high potential for abuse. The drug or other substance that has no currently accepted medical treatment use in the U.S.”
Right away you should be a little confused about why marijuana is on this list that also includes heroin and ecstasy among others. First of all, what warrants “high potential for abuse”? Marijuana is not addictive according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse who estimates that only 9% of people that use marijuana will become addicted.
In addition to marijuana not being an addictive substance, it has not caused any direct human deaths. Heroin, another schedule 1 drug, caused nearly 9,000 deaths last year and yet the DEA struggles to see a clear difference between heroin use and marijuana use, when they interpret the law.
Currently, the FDA does not recognize marijuana or any product of the cannabis plant, as medicine. This is where it gets sort of complicated. Though countless private studies have shown the efficacy of cannabis-derived products as medicine, the Federal Government will not acknowledge the data.
If the FDA were to accept any cannabis-derived products as medicine, before rescheduling marijuana as at least a schedule 2 drug, they would be superseding the laws set forth in the Controlled Substances Act.
Marijuana is used frequently to treat cancer, epilepsy, and arthritis patients among others. Success stories are becoming more frequent and legislators are slowly beginning to pay attention to these results. Unfortunately we often hear politicians cite their run-ins with critically ill patients as their reason for supporting marijuana legalization.
Of course it is wonderful that politicians are becoming inspired, but the stories that move them are often after the fact. People are dying—marijuana will help them—so how many more need to die before we take marijuana off the schedule 1 list?
Who Runs the Show?
The Department of Justice continuously upholds the laws set forth by Congress regarding marijuana use and possession. Common in bureaucracy is the “let’s wait and see” mentality, and judges across the nation put forth their best efforts to create any precedents that would jeopardize the federal position on marijuana.
The Controlled Substances Act specifically places control of drug scheduling in the hands of the Attorney General. The Act instructs the AG to:
“remove any drug or other substance from the schedules if he finds that the drug or other substance does not meet the requirements for inclusion in any schedule.”
Former AG Eric Handler consistently publicized his belief that it is the responsibility of Congress to investigate and decide if/how to approach any rescheduling of marijuana. The sad fact of the matter is nobody in Washington wants to touch marijuana law reform.
American’s are clear on their support for marijuana legalization. Some of us desire legalization because it is a medicine that can help us, or the ones we love. Other people want marijuana legalized because they feel it makes their lives better in many ways. Finally, there are some who support legalization because they wonder—why was it made illegal in the first place?
It would seem that the majority of folks who do not support legalization are trapped by archaic ways of thinking. The days of Reefer Madness are long gone. “Just say no” should no longer be applied to marijuana; it should be focused on heroin, ecstasy, and the many other substances that have proven to be lethal and addictive.
What do you think about marijuana being a schedule 1 drug? Let us know on social media.