The Drug Enforcement Administration is under severe criticism today after it failed to downgrade marijuana from its federal status as the most dangerous drug in the world.
News broke Wednesday night that the DEA’s much-anticipated decision on “re-scheduling” marijuana down from Schedule I to a lower level would not be occurring. Instead, the DEA — under Obama Administration orders — will open up more federally-licensed cannabis farms ending a decades-long government monopoly on cannabis supplies deemed research-worthy.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer was the first to blast the DEA for their decision. Under the DEA rules, cannabis will continue to be treated as if it has no medical use and a high potential for abuse. That is despite the fact that most Americans and a majority of doctors support legalizing cannabis.
Rep. Blumenauer stated: “this decision doesn’t go far enough and 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 Keeping marijuana at Schedule I continues an outdated, failed approach—leaving patients and marijuana businesses trapped between state and federal laws. This decision does not address other key concerns like the need for banking services and tax equity for small businesses, operating legally in half the states. It’s not right or fair.”
“Americans have spoken, with a majority supporting full legalization,” Rep. Blumenauer stated. “It’s not enough to remove some barriers to medical research. Marijuana shouldn’t be listed as Schedule I; it shouldn’t be listed at all. It is imperative, as part of the most progressive Administration on marijuana in history, that the DEA work to end the failed prohibition of marijuana.”
Cannabis was first prohibited in the ’30s under the Marijuana Tax Act, and again under Richard Nixon in the ’70s under the modernized Controlled Substances Act. It became schedule 1 despite multiple recommendations from government commissions suggesting otherwise. Deadly drugs like Vicodin and OxyContin, which are driving the nation’s overdose epidemic, are deemed safer and more useful than pot, which has no lethal overdose level for humans.
The DEA stated Thursday morning that: “Based on the legal standards in the CSA, marijuana remains a Schedule I controlled substance because it does not meet the criteria for currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, there is a lack of accepted safety for its use under medical supervision, and it has a high potential for abuse.”
“If the scientific understanding about marijuana changes — and it could change — then the decision could change. But we will remain tethered to science, as we must, and as the statute demands. It certainly would be odd to rely on science when it suits us and ignore it otherwise,” stated DEA head Chuck Rosenberg in a letter.
Read the denial of petition to reschedule marijuana here and here.
NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said the DEA is continuing a “flat Earth” policy with regard to marijuana and called on Congress to “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.”
The Drug Policy Alliance released a statement saying: “Keeping marijuana in Schedule I shows that the DEA continues to ignore research, science, and growing public and political opinion. Marijuana should be descheduled and states should be allowed to set their own policies.”
Thirty-seven states have some form of medical cannabis law, and four states and Washington DC have legalized cannabis for adults 21 and over. Voters in at least nine states are expected to decide on marijuana-related measures, including legalization in the California — the world’s seventh largest economy.
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