NOT LONG AGO, I wrote about the slight, slim chance that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) would reschedule cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule II [Cannabuzz, July 6]. You remember what Schedule I is—it’s the list of drugs defined as having “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” Along with cannabis, some of the other drugs listed as Schedule I are heroin, LSD, ecstasy, peyote, and Quaaludes. Not exactly respectable company.
Still, it wasn’t a big shock on August 11 when the DEA opted not to change the scheduling of cannabis, despite the submission of a rescheduling petition from two governors, or the fact that half of the states in the US now have medical and/or adult-use recreational cannabis programs in place. (By the way, this isn’t a new issue. There have been efforts to change the scheduling of cannabis since 1972—nearly 45 years ago.)
As I hoped they might, the DEA did slightly loosen the restrictions on medical research, and they will begin to issue grow licenses to universities in addition to the program that’s currently in place at the University of Mississippi, presently the only facility allowed to grow cannabis for research purposes. Bully to that, as the good ole U of Miss produces some Jah-awful cannabis.
Our own pro-cannabis congressman, US Representative Earl Blumenauer, weighed in, saying in part: “This decision is further evidence that the DEA doesn’t get it. Keeping marijuana at Schedule I continues an outdated, failed approach—leaving patients and marijuana businesses trapped between state and federal laws.”
The surreal stupidity of this decision is a challenge to process, although I have been trying. (My Ask a Pot Lawyer columnist colleague Vince Sliwoski has a slightly brighter outlook in his column this week.) Even taking into consideration the two reasons most government agencies make these types of decisions—an interest in maintaining money and power—that anyone would say with a straight face that cannabis is the equivalent of heroin is beyond the pale.
I have extensive experience with cannabis, and have seen the good it can do for people seeking both medical and recreational relief with its use. (Insert the “all recreational use is medical use” argument here if you like.) I’ve worked with children debilitated by chronic and frequent seizures who found near-miracle-like results from high CBD oils, and with geriatric patients who were able to soothe their pain, insomnia, and anxiety through the use of edibles and high-THC cannabis flower. Plus, it’s really fun to smoke. Not sure if y’all knew that.
I also have extensive experience with heroin. In a game that played out as something like a scene from Wim Wenders Presents Sesame Street, I counted the number of people in my life, friends and family, who have had problems with heroin use, including fatal overdoses. Twelve.
Still—as Vince suggests in his column—if the DEA had moved cannabis to Schedule II, it wouldn’t have been a huge victory, as that illustrious lineup includes Dilaudid (the drug that felled Prince) and meth.
Rescheduling also wouldn’t have addressed the myriad issues that exist because cannabis is listed on any part of the Drug Schedule. “But the feds still list it as illegal!” is the start of many arguments as to why things like banking reform and taxation relief for cannabis business aren’t currently possible.
Another cannabis lawyer, my friend Amy Margolis of Margolis Legal, writes on her blog that we need to stop worrying about rescheduling and start working on descheduling. As in, removing cannabis entirely from the DEA lineup. She writes, “I am [a] fan of even incremental change. I want the feds to recognize that there is medical value in cannabis. Sometimes I am thankful for even the [tiniest] change that adds legitimacy and validation to the cultivation and use of cannabis. But, there is no way that I think cannabis should be a Schedule II controlled substance either.”
It’s beyond discouraging, even absurd, that this is where we’re at with cannabis and the federal government. But the Wall of Stupidity—the one that keeps those of us who work with cannabis relegated to the fringes—is beginning to show some cracks. People aren’t buying the established line on this any longer, and millions of our fellow citizens now have access, and are benefiting, from state-legalized cannabis use. So, no more talk about rescheduling. From this point on, we demand descheduling.