420 Magazine Background

Medical Marijuana And The Federal Government

Herb Fellow

New Member
It remains unclear why the U.S. Food and Drug Administration continues to classify marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug, the most dangerous classification available along with heroin, PCP (angel dust) and LSD, while in 1998 classifying Marinol, a synthetic THC (the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana), as a Schedule 3 drug. This despite polls showing most Americans would support reclassification.

Even a reclassification of marijuana to a Schedule 2 category such as cocaine and coca leaves, raw opium and poppy straw, morphine and methamphetamines, would allow physicians to prescribe it for medical patients and pharmacies to dispense it.

In 1996, when California led 12 other states in passing medical marijuana protection, the language in Proposition 215 encouraged the federal and state governments to work together to resolve any conflicts. Many who voted for Prop. 215 assumed it would take little time before doctors could legally prescribe marijuana and patients could pick it up at their local pharmacy.

More than 11 years later, the situation remains conflicted between state, federal and even local laws, which has encouraged an entire new class of lawless "bootleggers" to supply medical marijuana needs, reminiscent to many of the time of Prohibition (1920-1933) when drinking alcohol was illegal in the United States.

Prohibition brought with it the rise of organized crime to supply the illegal market and "speakeasies" with bootleg alcohol. At the time, the cost to
enforce Prohibition was high, no tax revenues were received on the illegal hooch and a highly profitable and violent black market system supplied alcohol to nearly every corner of the nation. Some of the alcohol was made locally and some imported illegally from Canada and Mexico. The parallel between the current marijuana culture in Mendocino County and the Prohibition years is striking.

The continued classification of marijuana by the federal government with such serious drugs as heroin and PCP appears to contradict the government's own research. If the Food and Drug Administration had reclassified marijuana sometime since 1996, much of the conflict between state and federal laws associated with medical marijuana would have been resolved. Doctors prescribe Schedule II drugs and pharmacies fill those prescriptions every day throughout the country. Unauthorized use and sale of Schedule II drugs are still illegal but the rules provide a way for doctors legally to prescribe them to patients.

Much of the literature associated with keeping marijuana as a Schedule I drug centers around its addictive qualities, this despite substantial research that has debunked this. It has also been dubbed the "gateway drug" despite the federal governments own research to the contrary. Even the Office of National Drug Control Policy states "smoking marijuana may allow patients to temporarily feel better." Most Schedule 2 drugs are also addictive and many have serious side effects.

There are two ways for a drug to be reclassified, the FDA can do it administratively or Congress can act. The administration of the FDA under both presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush have consistently refused to consider the reclassification in large part because it is a plant and not a formulated drug with full scale testing sponsored by a pharmaceutical drug company. "The federal government along with many state governments and private antidrug organizations staunchly maintains that botanical marijuana is a dangerous drug without any legitimate medical use," according to a 2006 congressional policy assessment.

Bills have been defeated during the past five Congressional terms, which would have either reclassified marijuana or prevented the U.S. Department of Justice from prosecuting medical marijuana users, cultivators or distributors.

"Rescheduling seems to be supported by public opinion. A nationwide Gallup
Poll conducted in March 1999 found that 73 percent of American adults favor "making marijuana legally available for doctors to prescribe in order to reduce pain and suffering." An American Association of Retired Persons poll of American adults age 45 and older conducted in mid-November 2004 found 72 percent agree that adults "should be allowed to legally use marijuana for medical purposes if recommended by a physician."

Source: The Willits News
Copyright: 2008, The Willits News
Contact: Linda Williams/TWN Staff Writer
Website: Medical marijuana and the federal government - The Willits News
Top Bottom