The DEA Forced to Remove Misleading Cannabis Claims from Website: There are no two ways about it – Federal law makes the whole subject of legal cannabis very confusing. Not just confusing, but incredibly difficult for those looking to play a role in the development of the fledgling legal pot industry. You’re handed the freedom you’ve been dreaming of, but with a rather unfortunate caveat in the form of Federal policy that contradicts state law.
As it stands right now, the vast majority of North American states permit the cultivation, distribution and consumption of cannabis in one form or another. Not simple decriminalisation, but actual legalisation with appropriate supportive pot policy. Nine states have so far gone the whole-hog and legalised recreational cannabis, with others set to follow going forward. The long and short of it therefore being that for the first time, more than half of the entire US population has legal access to cannabis in one form or another.
Well, apart from the fact that technically speaking, they don’t.
Irrespective of the progress being made across vast swathes of the country, absolutely nothing has changed at a Federal level. Federal law applies to all states and all citizens across the board, surpassing state law and generally giving the whole country rules by which to live and work. The Fed says cannabis is illegal – most states say otherwise. But while pot remains illegal at a Federal level, the industry will continue to struggle when it comes to things like financing, investment, recruitment and generally mapping out its own future. When combined with the fact that nobody knows how the Trump Administration with handle the cannabis issue, it’s all one very large and very confusing grey area.
But while it’s far too early to even begin to predict what’s going to happen over the coming years, there has at least been one encouraging sign that US authorities are beginning to acknowledge certain truths about pot. Or should that be, are realising that the time may have come to stop spouting complete and total nonsense – the kind of propaganda that can and does tend to do more harm than good.
What we’re talking about here is the way in which the Drug Enforcement Agency has been forced to take down from its own website a bunch of misleading statements and claims with regard to the ‘dangers’ of cannabis. Americans for Safe Access piled pressure on the DEA last year with the backing of members of the public, when it became apparent that the agency’s website presented information that was entirely inaccurate and had been proven as such. The publication entitled the “Dangers and Consequences of Marijuana” was found to contain at least 23 statements about cannabis that breached the Information Quality Act – a total of 25 were found across the website in general.
Some of the long-standing cannabis myths that have now been removed from the DEA website include the claim that cannabis causes psychosis and lung cancer, cognitive decline in adults and is a dangerous ‘gateway’ drug that leads to experimentation with more dangerous drugs.
Speaking on behalf of Americans for Safe Access, executive director Steph Sherer stated that this initial move “could mean the end of the Washington gridlock” over cannabis policy.
“This is a victory for medical cannabis patients across the nation, who rely on cannabis to treat serious illnesses. The federal government now admits that cannabis is not a gateway drug, and doesn’t cause long-term brain damage, or psychosis,” she said.
“While the fight to end stigma around cannabis is far from over, this is a big first step.”
It has also been alleged that the Federal government has already breached the deadline by which it was required to respond to a public petition, accusing the DEA of knowingly and continually publishing inaccurate and misleading information on pot. Leading the charge, Americans for Safe Access has written to the DEA to urge for immediate corrective action to be taken, in which they highlighted the way in which the newly-confirmed US Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, has himself “made several statements demonstrating his beliefs that cannabis is a gateway drug and that its psychological effects are permanent.”
“As the top law enforcement official in the nation, Mr. Sessions must have access to accurate information based on current scientific data in order to make informed decisions regarding the enforcement (or non-enforcement) of federal drug laws,” the letter reads.
“Allowing Mr. Sessions to make law enforcement decisions based on biased, out-of-date information does a tremendous disservice to ASA’s members and the American people at large.”
Throughout his career, Sessions has scarcely masked or even diluted his exceptionally strong views with regard to cannabis and those who use it. He famously went on record in one instance to state that “good people don’t smoke cannabis” while suggesting that if he was in charge, cannabis dealers would be executed. He also sparked a sizeable backlash across the US when he stated that if it wasn’t for the fact that they are open supporters of cannabis, the KKK would be just fine by him.
Suffice to say, not the kind of guy you’d want to have a finger hovering over the big-red Federal cannabis law button. On the plus side, popular 420 Blog LIWTS.org quotes Sessions as stating that taking action on cannabis is “absolutely a problem of resources”. Less than comforting, but better than nothing.
All-Change at the Fed?
In a sense though, this is the closest the Federal government has so far come to in at least a small sense admitting that its current cannabis policy may in fact be due something of a rethink. The simple fact of the matter is that if the entire justification of cannabis being illegal at a Federal level is based on arguments like the 25 that were found to be wholly inaccurate, this could suggest that the very basis of the legislation as a whole is flawed.
Which is, of course, something that the pro-cannabis community has been trying to convince the government of for decades.
All of this comes at an incredibly critical time, given the way in which the Trump Administration is still finding its feet and meeting with controversy on every corner. Jeff Sessions in particular may find the whole thing somewhat hard to swallow, given the way in which he’s not exactly made himself known as a friend of the cannabis community. What’s more, the fact that his own misguided comments have been shot down in flames isn’t likely to sit particularly well with him. On the whole, the likelihood of Federal law being reversed or amended anytime soon seems to be on the low side. But at the same time, the prospect of Sessions and Co. pulling the plug on the entire cannabis industry also seems less likely than it has in a while.
He’d need a lot of justification to make it work – a lot of that justification has just been wiped off the face of the Earth. Or the face of the DEA website, at least.
Of course, the fact that the DEA has been forced against its will to eliminate a number of cannabis myths from its own website doesn’t mean that it isn’t going to be a long time before dozens of other equally harmful myths are quashed once and for all. It’s one thing for this kind of thing to happen – it’s something else entirely for it to have any impact whatsoever on cannabis critics. Plus there’s the way in which it doesn’t address various other untruths, which like those removed from the DEA website have been comprehensively disproven.
Just a few examples include:
- Legalisation would not impact the black market. Quite to the contrary, both common sense and the reality of what’s happening in US states where cannabis has been legalised paint entirely the opposite picture. One of the few things the entire US public is in agreement of is the importance of driving illegal drug dealers off the streets – cannabis legalisation being the single most effective approach to achieving exactly that.
- Legalisation increases teen consumption rates. Once again, the simple fact of the matter is that the overwhelming evidence points to the contrary. In Colorado for example, on-going research has shown that since recreational cannabis was legalised, consumption rates among teenagers, children and young adults have all decreased. And so too have cases of cannabis dependency and overuse.
- Medical cannabis research is remedial. While medical cannabis research is most certainly on-going, there is already more than enough evidence to confirm its positive effects in the treatment of various conditions. Not only this, medical cannabis has also proven time and time again to be considerably safer, less addictive and less unpleasant in terms of side effects than any number of conventional drugs/treatments.
It may be a while before anything changes at a Federal level, but the fact that the truth is at least starting to be acknowledged is reassuring to say the least.