DEA Refuses To Reschedule Marijuana
Above Photo: JOHN VIZCAINO / REUTERS
Note: The Marijuana Policy Project notes how out of step the DEA’s decision is with the reality of medical marijuana use in the United States, writing:
Forty-two states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico and Guam have adopted laws recognizing marijuana’s medical value. A variety of prominent national and state organizations have also formally recognized the medical benefits of marijuana, including the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine, the American Public Health Association, the American College of Physicians, the American Nurses Association, the American Academy of HIV Medicine, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, the Epilepsy Foundation, the British Medical Association, the California Medical Association, and the Texas Medical Association, among many others.
Government reports, research organizations, and studies published in medical and scientific journals have consistently concluded that marijuana is less addictive and less harmful to the body than alcohol. For example, according to a White House-commissioned report released in 1999 by the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine: “[A]lthough [some] marijuana users develop dependence, they appear to be less likely to do so than users of other drugs (including alcohol and nicotine), and marijuana dependence appears to be less severe than dependence on other drugs.”
NORML, which has been urging rescheduling since 1972, called the DEA decision a “Flat Earth” decision. While applauding increased research, NORML’s Deputy Director Paul Armentano said:
Since the DEA has failed to take such action, then it is incumbent that members of Congress act swiftly to amend cannabis’ criminal status in a way that comports with both public and scientific opinion. Failure to do so continues the federal government’s ‘Flat Earth’ position; it willfully ignores the well-established therapeutic properties associated with the plant and it ignores the laws in 26 states recognizing marijuana’s therapeutic efficacy.
I litigated the issue of DEA’s mistaken scheduling of marijuana with drugs like heroin in the 1980s. After hearing testimony from patients, their families, doctors, nurses and researchers are saying that marijuana has a medical use in treatment in the United States, the chief administrative law judge for the agency, Francis L. Young, called DEA’s failure to reschedule “arbitrary, capricious and an abuse of discretion.” The same conclusion is true today. DEA seems to be incapable of being rational about marijuana. Their desire to keep marijuana illegal prevents their ability to examine the facts. The Attorney General should overrule the DEA. This is a failure of the Obama administration. KZ
The Next Administration will have to be the one to end prohibition of marijuana as Obama administration fails
Today, the DEA announced that it was not rescheduling marijuana, in effect refusing to recognize marijuana’s medicinal benefits. But in what is viewed as a victory for the marijuana reform movement, the DEA said that it was ending its monopoly on marijuana research.
“Keeping marijuana in Schedule I shows that the DEA continues to ignore research, and places politics above science,” said Michael Collins, deputy director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. “In reality, marijuana should be descheduled and states should be allowed to set their own policies.”
One move that was positive was eliminating obstacles to research. “Ending the DEA-enforced NIDA monopoly is a very welcome move that will enable more research,” said Collins.
For decades, the DEA has promoted an unjustified monopoly on research-grade marijuana for use in federally-approved studies – which effectively made it impossible for scientists to put marijuana through clinical trials to demonstrate it meets FDA standards for medical safety and efficacy. Marijuana is the only substance that DEA has prohibited from being produced by private laboratories for scientific research. Although the DEA licenses multiple privately-funded manufacturers of virtually all other scheduled drugs, it currently permits just one facility – operated by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) – to supply marijuana to scientists. And NIDA has a long track record of obstructing medical marijuana research – by manufacturing intractable delays, providing poor quality research material, and not providing marijuana for multiple FDA-approved studies. The announcement today should change that reality.
The DEA has been forced to respond to Congressional movement on marijuana. The CARERS Act, sponsored by Senators Booker, Paul, and Gillibrand, contains provisions to end the DEA-mandated NIDA monopoly. Last year, the Obama Administration removed other research barriers that CARERS sought to eliminate.
“Marijuana prohibition ruins thousands of lives every year through meaningless arrests – disproportionately impacting people of color. Thankfully, voters in numerous states are legalizing marijuana through ballot initiatives. The next Administration must move quickly to end federal prohibition, and undo this destructive and racially-biased policy” added Collins.
DPA Fact Sheet: Medical Marijuana (English/Spanish)
DPA Fact Sheet: Removing Marijuana From the Controlled Substances Act