jack herer marijuana strain
Ending Marijuana Prohibition

It’s Time To Deschedule, Not Reschedule, Marijuana

jack herer marijuana strainBy Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director

A recent memorandum from the US Drug Enforcement Administration to several United States Senators indicates that the agency is prepared to respond in the coming months to a five-year-old petition seeking to amend the plant’s status as a schedule I prohibited substance.

Under the US Controlled Substances Act of 1970, the cannabis plant and its organic cannabinoids are classified as schedule I prohibited substances — the most restrictive category available under the law. As summarized by the DEA, “Schedule I drugs are the most dangerous drugs of all the drug schedules with potentially severe psychological or physical dependence.”

Explicitly, substances in this category must meet three specific inclusion criteria: The substance must possess “a high potential for abuse”; it must have “no currently accepted medical use” in the United States; and the substance must lack “accepted safety for use … under medical supervision.” Substances that do not meet these criteria must, by law, be categorized in less restrictive federal schedules (schedule II through schedule V) and are legally regulated accordingly. (For example, schedule II substances like morphine or methadone are available by prescription.) Alcohol and tobacco, two substances that possess far greater dangers to health than does cannabis, are not subject to federal classification under the CSA.

Federal law grants power to the US Attorney General to reclassify a controlled substance if the available scientific evidence no longer supports that drug’s classification. In practice, however, this power has been delegated to the DEA, with input from both FDA and the US Department of Health and Human Services. Federal law also allows third parties to petition these agencies to consider reclassifying controlled substances.

The petition now before the DEA was filed in 2011 by then-governors Christine Gregoire of Washington and Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island. Other recent rescheduling petitions, such as a 2002 petition filed by a coalition of marijuana law reform and health advocacy organizations, have been rejected outright by the agency. In 1990, the DEA set aside the decision of its own administrative law judge, who had responded in 1988 to a petition effort initiated by NORML, after he called for reclassifying the plant.

While it remains unknown at present time if the DEA will respond favorably to this current rescheduling effort, it has become apparent in recent years that reclassifying cannabis from schedule I to schedule II – the same category as cocaine – falls well short of the sort of federal reform necessary to reflect America’s emerging reefer reality. Specifically, reclassifying the pot plant from I to II (or even to schedule III) continues to misrepresent the plant’s safety relative to other controlled substances such as methamphetamine (schedule II), anabolic steroids (schedule III), or alcohol (unscheduled), and fails to provide states with the ability to fully regulate it free from federal interference.

Further, the federal policies in place that make clinical trial work with cannabis more onerous than it is for other controlled substances — such as the requirement that all source material be purchased from NIDA’s University of Mississippi marijuana cultivation program — are regulatory requirements that are specific to cannabis, not to Schedule I drugs in general. Simply rescheduling cannabis from I to II does not necessarily change these regulations, at least in the short-term.

In addition, the sort of gold-standard, large-scale, long-term Phase III safety and efficacy trials that are typically necessary prior to bringing therapeutic drugs to market are prohibitively expensive. As a result, trials of this kind are typically are funded by private pharmaceutical companies aspiring to bring a new product to market. In some cases, the federal government may assist in sharing these costs, such as was the case with the research and development of the synthetic THC pill Marinol (dronabinol). However, political reality dictates that neither entity is likely to pony up the tens of millions of dollars necessary to conduct such trials assessing the efficacy of herbal cannabis any time soon, if ever, regardless of the plant’s federal scheduling.

This is not to say that rescheduling cannabis would not have any positive tangible effects. At a minimum, it would bring an end to the federal government’s longstanding intellectual dishonesty that marijuana ‘lacks accepted medical use.’ It would also likely permit banks and other financial institutions to work with state-compliant marijuana-related businesses, and permit employers in the cannabis industry to take tax deductions similar to those enjoyed by other businesses. Rescheduling would also likely bring some level of relief to federal employees subject to random workplace drug testing for off-the-job cannabis consumption.

But ultimately, such a change would do little to significantly loosen federal prohibition or to make herbal cannabis readily accessible for clinical study. These goals can arguably only be accomplished by federally decsheduling cannabis in a manner similar to alcohol and tobacco, such as is proposed by US Senate Bill 2237, The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act. Doing so will finally provide states the power to establish their own marijuana policies free from federal intrusion.

Source: NORML make a donation

  • Stel-1776

    Cannabis should not be scheduled at all, let alone be in Schedule I.

    It is absurd that the Federal Government still classifies cannabis as a Schedule I substance along with Heroin. It is classified in a more dangerous category than Cocaine, Morphine, Opium and Meth. The three required criteria for Schedule I classification are:

    “1) The drug or other substance has a high potential for abuse.”

    The dependence rate of cannabis is the lowest of common legal drugs including tobacco, caffeine, alcohol, and many prescription drugs. More important, cannabis does not cause the kind of dependence that we typically associate with the term, like that of alcohol or heroin. It is more similar to that of caffeine, with less symptoms. Cannabis dependence, in the very few who develop it, is relatively mild, and usually not a significant issue or something that requires treatment, unless of course it is court ordered. [Catherine et al. 2011; Lopez-Quintero et al. 2011; Joy et al. 1999; Anthony et al. 1994;]

    “2) The drug or other substance has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.”

    Cannabis has been used as medicine for thousands of years. Despite great difficulty in conducting medical cannabis research, the medicinal efficacy of cannabis is supported by the highest quality evidence. [Hill. 2015] Already 76% of doctors accept using cannabis to treat medical conditions even though it is still illegal in most places. [Adler and Colbert. 2013]. Cannabis is able to treat a wide range of disease, including mood and anxiety disorders, movement disorders such as Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease, neuropathic pain, multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injury, to cancer, atherosclerosis, myocardial infarction, stroke, hypertension, glaucoma, obesity/metabolic syndrome, and osteoporosis, to name just a few. Cannabis is able to do this partially through its action on the newly discovered (thanks to cannabis) endocannabinoid system and the receptors CB1 and CB2 which are found throughout the body. [Pacher et al. 2006; Pamplona 2012; Grotenhermen & Müller-Vahl 2012].

    “3) There is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision.”

    On September 6, 1988, after two years of hearings on cannabis rescheduling, DEA Administrative Law Judge Francis L. Young concluded that:

    Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man…. Marijuana has been accepted as capable of relieving distress of great numbers of very ill people, and doing so with safety under medical supervision. It would be unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious for DEA to continue to stand between those sufferers and the benefits of this substance in light of the evidence in this record.

    Relatively speaking cannabis is a safe drug [Iversen L. 2005]. The evidence is is clear, cannabis does not belong in Schedule I [Grant et al. 2012]. It does not meet any one of the three required criteria.

    Please help bring end to this senseless prohibition. The organizations below fight every day to bring us sensible cannabis policies. Help them fight by joining their mailing lists, signing their petitions and writing your legislators when they call for it:

    MPP – The Marijuana Policy Projecthttp://www.mpp.Org/
    DPA – Drug Policy Alliancehttp://www.drugpolicy.Org/
    NORML – National Organization to Reform Marijuana Lawshttp://norml.Org/
    LEAP – Law Enforcement Against Prohibitionhttp://www.leap.Cc/

    SOURCES:

    –Adler and Colbert. Medicinal Use of Marijuana — Polling Results. New England Journal of Medicine. 2013.
    –Anthony et al. Comparative epidemiology of dependence on tobacco, alcohol, controlled substances, and inhalants: Basic findings from the National Comorbidity Survey. Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology. 1994.
    –Catherine et al. Evaluating Dependence Criteria for Caffeine. J Caffeine Res. 2011.
    –Grant et al. Medical marijuana: clearing away the smoke. Open Neurol J. 2012.
    –Grotenhermen F, Müller-Vahl K. The therapeutic potential of cannabis and cannabinoids. Dtsch Arztebl Int. 2012. Review.
    –Hill K. Medical Marijuana for Treatment of Chronic Pain and Other Medical and Psychiatric Problems. A Clinical Review. JAMA. 2015. Review.
    –Iversen L. Long-term effects of exposure to cannabis. Curr Opin Pharmacol. 2005. Review.
    –Joy et al. Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base. Institute of Medicine. 1999.
    –Lopez-Quintero et al. Probability and predictors of transition from first use to dependence on nicotine, alcohol, cannabis, and cocaine: results of the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC). Drug Alcohol Depend. 2011.
    –Pacher et al. The endocannabinoid system as an emerging target of pharmacotherapy. Pharmacol Rev. 2006. Review.
    –Pamplona FA, Takahashi RN. Psychopharmacology of the endocannabinoids: far beyond anandamide. J Psychopharmacol. 2012. Review.

  • Jerry Cook

    Absolutely right Paul. Get politicians backing Bernie’s bill SB 2237 to DE-SCHEDULE, pass it, and then remove Liar Nixon’s DEA as well who are shills for BIG pHARMa at best.

  • Closet Warrior

    I’ve already descheduled it myself decades ago to beyond safe and here’s a crazy idea I’ve been telling people forever…if all medicaters stood together and grew their own. The authorities wouldn’t know what to do but accept the fact it’s over! You can’t lock up an entire country, although they’re trying. If the whole world did it then we could put an end to all this talk of I wonder when….

    • Been around

      I’ve been through that scenario once already, including incarceration !
      I’ve been using cannabis as a pain suppressant for fifteen years now and have SUCCESSFULLY stayed away from all lab pain-killers —- RIGHT DOWN TO ASPIRIN — which, by the way, kills about 1000 people per year (internal bleeding).
      The death toll goes up from there to ibuprofen, and on upward until the next threshold is reached — the opiates…
      This entire “system” is set up for profit —– Big Brother needs to keep the prisons full !

      GO, BERNIE ! I FEEL THE BERN !

      Not to be confused with the burn that I received from my elected officials and a corrupt justice system !

  • 95% of all politicians are former law enforcement.

    There is no way the DEA will just de-schedule and disband themselves.

    Ain’t gonna happen.

    The very most they might do is re-schedule to a schedule 2 so they can keep on busting folks for pot. Most of them are still in the reefer madness mindset so to them it would be INSANE to allow such a horrible drug any freedoms.

    Remember, “medical marijuana is a joke”, head of DEA, “too dangerous to legalize” Senator GrASSly.

    When was the last time any agency just said “in light of new evidence, we are shutting down our department of 10’s of thousands of law enforcement folks”? Let alone one of the most powerful organizations in the country.

    Hopefully the UNGASS will show the world that the war on drugs was a bad idea and needs to go the opposite way but I will not hold my breath about de-scheduling with sooo many jobs at stake.

    Possibly well over 150-200K jobs lost with police force reductions and lawyers no longer needed, the reduction in prison staffing when they lose 30-40% of the inmates and of course 90% of the folks at the DEA and the money(lawyers, prisons, fines, civil forfeitures, etc.) at stake with keeping it illegal, thoughts?

    • PeedNUrGenePool

      A completely legalized nationwide Marijuana Industry…

      Could hire 150-200K people JUST TO HANDLE SECURITY…

    • MrPC

      Thought experiment: take all those dollars that have been wasted on battling the supply side of the “drug problem” and re-purpose them to treating addiction, educating kids about drug use (with facts, not fiction) and supporting those who may be at risk. If hard drugs were seen as a health problem rather than criminal behavior, the drug cartels would be out of business within a few months.

    • Been around

      We have to remember —– there is huge profit motive here —– from the Corporate world to the FOR-PROFIT prison system !
      WE KNOW WHY CANNABIS IS ILLEGAL !

      You’d have to be a complete idiot or the biggest liar on Earth to refute the facts —- all of the facts around this issue —- from the initial intent, to the proliferation of prisons to support the laws, to the for-profit out-patient and in-patient facilities who rake in thousands upon thousands of TAX PAYERS’ DOLLARS for EACH INDIVIDUAL that’s thrown into this systemic black hole !

      I have personally lived it, including the loss of my freedom. I will never, never, NEVER see my government and this establishment in the same light ever again.

      Scarred (but not scared) for life.

      Mired in the tyrannical State of New York

      GO, BERNIE ! WE FEEL THE BERN !

  • briteleaf

    DESCHEDULE IT!!!!!!!

  • PeedNUrGenePool

    Marijuana should not be subject to the CSA, or scheduling.

    EVERY SINGLE Drug on the CSA Schedule KILLS PEOPLE.

    Marijuana DOES NOT kill people. And thus, is less dangerous than even the Schedule 5 drugs.

  • PeedNUrGenePool

    One of the biggest tragedies….these Prohibitionists are KILLING OUR BABIES.

    Hundreds of babies and small children are being saved in Colorado right now from Dravet’s epilepsy.

    Here in Missouri, I’ve been working on the petition campaign for MM…thus, I’ve talked to several thousand people. I’ve met several who had epilepsy…their Drs. are already INFORMALLY recommending that they try to buy marijuana on the black market…saying it was safer than the epilepsy drugs, and if it works for them, they should use it.

    Tragically, I’ve also met one couple whose baby is dying from Dravet’s syndrome. They were desperately trying to figure out a way to move to Colorado. Unfortunately the husband would have to give up his job, and with no income, they couldn’t figure out a way to move.

    They were praying our petition drive and the election would give them access to Medical Marijuana.

    It left me praying it would happen in time to save their baby.

    If you think about it, 45 years of the fraudulent War on Marijuana has killed 10’s of thousands of children from epilepsy….and think of the suffering…dying from seizures that could have been prevented.

    SO WHEN IS THIS KILLING GOING TO STOP?

    WE ALL NEED TO CALL OUR POLITICIANS…at every level. WE NEED TO RAISE HELL!

    DEMAND your politician END THE DRUG WAR. Tell them about all the children suffering.

    Ask them how many more babies have to suffer and die before they do something.

    • saynotohypocrisy

      Thanks for talking to 1000’s of people about this! And great post.
      What’s really scary to me is that everyone, from Obama on down, knows the deal about childhood epilepsy and cannabis at this point.
      They even know that it’s high CBD non-psychoactive cannabis that we are talking about, not that it should make any difference, when we’re talking about a life-threatening disease. They know, and they just don’t care. What the fuck is wrong with these goddamn pigs?

    • Been around

      Keep up the fight ! This is War against the “war” !

  • Been around

    This entire issue is another FIGHT AGAINST THE ESTABLISHMENT. This is our modern-day challenge to the freedom-of-choice for MANY issues. Get the Establishment i.e. the purchasing of our Presidents OUT OF POLITICS.
    Big Money ALWAYS, and I mean ALWAYS means CORRUPTION.
    —————
    GO BERNIE —- WE’RE FEELING THE BERN !

  • james f vandeventer jr

    the bill that bernie has sent to the senate is what is needed bill 2237 please listen 60% want it and anybody that doesn’t works in law enforcement or owns prisons. we the people have spoken!!!!