The Obama Administration seems to be open to discussion regarding making changes to the current scheduling of marijuana, specifically; removing it from the federal government’s “dangerous drug list.” Attorney General Eric Holder was clear, however, that any decision or action would be made with in collaboration with Congress.
The Controlled Substance Act (CSA) classifies drugs and other substances into five distinct categories – called ‘schedules’ – that are assigned using certain criteria: whether there is an acceptable medical use of the drug and the abuse or dependency potential of the drug.
Schedule I drugs are considered the most dangerous, having a high potential for abuse as well as potentially severe psychological and/or physical dependence. Therefore, Schedule V drugs have the the least potential for abuse.
Currently, marijuana is a Schedule I drug, meaning that it is categorized with some of the hardest drugs, such as heroin, LSD, and Ecstasy. Schedule I drugs are like the FBI’s Most Wanted; they are considered to be the most dangerous substances around. And, although there haven’t been any documented cases of marijuana-related overdose deaths, it remains a Schedule I drug, being described by the federal government as having a “high potential for abuse.”
Besides how ridiculous this characterization is, there’s another big issue with marijuana being classified in this way: it can’t be researched for any medical benefits while it remains a Schedule I drug. So, despite the many promising aspects of the plant as an effective treatment or even a cure for some medical disorders, marijuana remains a mostly untapped resource.
Holder stated that the current administration is “more than glad to work with Congress if there is a desire to look at and reexamine how the drug is scheduled” during a House Appropriations Committee held on April 4. Prior to this, the President received an impassioned letter composed by 18 members of Congress, calling for him to reconsider how marijuana is categorized by the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) was one of these 18 congressional members involved in writing the letter in which he referred to President Obama’s interview in the New Yorker. In it, the president said that he considered marijuana to be less dangerous than alcohol. Obama also said that “Marijuana… remains listed in the federal Controlled Substances Act at Schedule I… a higher listing than cocaine and methamphetamine, Schedule II substances that you gave as example of harder drugs,” and added, “This makes no sense.”
Reclassifying marijuana would not make it wholly legal under federal law but, it could make possible research into marijuana’s medical benefits and allow marijuana-related businesses to receive tax deductions.
Referring to an earlier decision to prosecute certain cases only – due to the department’s limited resources, Holder is quotes as saying “We’re not blazing a new trail,” as enforcement happens on the state and local levels.
Despite the fact that Holder oversees the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), it’s likely that his views are at odds with the agency and that any attempt to reschedule marijuana will meet with resistance. DEA Chief Michele Leonhart said this week that the growing acceptance of marijuana only makes her agents want to “fight harder.”
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