The Controlled Substances Act, passed by Congress in 1970 and signed in to law by President Nixon, is a law that creates five Schedules (or classifications) of drugs, with each Schedule having its own criteria that must be met in order for a drug to be included in that Schedule. The most harmful drugs, those listed in Schedule I, are the drugs that are outlawed under all circumstances. In order for a drug to be included in Schedule I it must meet three criteria:
- The drug must have a high potential for abuse
- The drug has no currently accepted medical uses in the United States
- There is lack of accepted safety for use of the drug
It’s time to move on
Many people are shocked when they learn that the DEA continues to classify marijuana as a Schedule I drug, despite volumes of scientific evidence that proves the medical efficacy of cannabis in treating hundreds of conditions. This week members of Congress will call on President Obama to reconsider the classification of cannabis as a Schedule I drug.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), a longtime cannabis advocate in Congress, has crafted a letter to President Obama urging him to either delist marijuana entirely, or at the very least eliminate it from both Schedules I & II (most research indicates cannabis would be better classified as Schedule IV with drugs like Xanax and Valium). Rep. Blumenauer will spend the next week collecting signatures from members of Congress before sending it to the President.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney reminded reporters last week that the President remains opposed to decriminalizing cannabis, despite a recent New Yorker interview where he said he thought cannabis was less destructive than alcohol and compared it to tobacco.
As has been well documented, I smoked pot as a kid, and I view it as a bad habit and a vice, not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my adult life. I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol.
Depending on the President’s “mood of the month” on cannabis it will likely take a substantial number of Congressional signatures to cause him to take definitive action and either reclassify or declassify. Congress also has the ability to pass a law changing a drug’s classification, and many attempts have been made to do so since the early 80’s. All have failed.
Text of the letter
We were encouraged by your recent comments in your interview with David Remnick in the January 27, 2014 issue of the New Yorker, about the shifting public opinion on the legalization of marijuana. We request that you take action to help alleviate the harms to society caused by the federal Schedule I classification of marijuana.
Lives and resources are wasted on enforcing harsh, unrealistic, and unfair marijuana laws. Nearly two-thirds of a million people every year are arrested for marijuana possession. We spend billions every year enforcing marijuana laws, which disproportionately impact minorities. According to the ACLU, black Americans are nearly four times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession, despite comparable marijuana usage rates.
You said that you don’t believe marijuana is any more dangerous than alcohol: a fully legalized substance, and believe it to be less dangerous “in terms of its impact on the individual consumer.” This is true. Marijuana, however, remains listed in the federal Controlled Substances Act at Schedule I, the strictest classification, along with heroin and LSD. This is a higher listing than cocaine and methamphetamine, Schedule II substances that you gave as examples of harder drugs. This makes no sense.
Classifying marijuana as Schedule I at the federal level perpetuates an unjust and irrational system. Schedule I recognizes no medical use, disregarding both medical evidence and the laws of nearly half of the states that have legalized medical marijuana. A Schedule I or II classification also means that marijuana businesses in states where adult or medical use are legal cannot deduct business expenses from their taxes or take tax credits due to Section 280E of the federal tax code.
We request that you instruct Attorney General Holder to delist or classify marijuana in a more appropriate way, at the very least eliminating it from Schedule I or II. Furthermore, one would hope that your Administration officials publicly reflect your views on this matter. Statements such as the one from DEA chief of operations James L. Capra that the legalization of marijuana at the state level is “reckless and irresponsible” serve no purposes other than to inflame passions and misinform the public.
Thank you for your continued thoughtfulness about this important issue. We believe the current system wastes resources and destroys lives, in turn damaging families and communities. Taking action on this issue is long overdue.