In the US, marijuana is a Schedule 1 drug, which means that the government considers it as dangerous as opium, cocaine and LSD. According to the government, to receive listing as a Schedule 1 controlled substance, a drug must have a high potential for abuse, and it must have no accepted medicinal qualities. Interestingly, doctors are forbidden—on the federal level—from writing prescriptions for Schedule 1 substances. So far, 22 states and the District of Columbia have overridden this rule by allowing medical marijuana within their jurisdictions. The Drug Enforcement Agency also has carte blanche—again, on a federal level—to seize and destroy any cache of marijuana they encounter. They can also set production quotas for any Schedule 1 substance, meaning that they can prevent universities and labs to produce these substances beyond a certain amount.
It is readily apparent that there is a good amount of doublethink currently circulating within the US government, both at state and federal levels. Colorado and Washington have even taken things a step further by legalizing cannabis for recreational use. How is it possible, then, that government agencies have the power to seize and destroy marijuana while at the same time dispensaries sell it legally? The Obama administration isn’t oblivious to the contradiction, and they have come out in favor of a possible rescheduling for marijuana.
The Obama Administration
The most vocal member of the administration in favor of rescheduling is Attorney General Eric Holder, who recently revealed that the administration would like to move forward with Congress in rescheduling the drug. Holder said, “It is something that ultimately Congress would have to change, and I think that our administration would be glad to work with Congress if such a proposal were made.” Of note is the fact that the US attorney general has the authority to reschedule a drug, but the administration has made it clear that they are not willing to do that without the support of Congress.
The DEA—headed by Michele Leonhart—would almost certainly resist rescheduling. In fact, Leonart is on record as stating that the agency is going to “fight harder” in light of recent legalization in Colorado and Washington—this, even while there is a strong movement within the nation’s capital to legalize cannabis as those states have. Regardless of the DEA’s stance, the Obama administration has stated that they will not interfere with individual states that wish to legalize the drug.
Rescheduling marijuana would allow universities and independent labs to do more comprehensive research into the many chemicals that the marijuana plant possesses. Some of these chemicals, such as CBD, or cannabidiol, have been shown to significantly reduce seizures in children with Duvet syndrome, an extremely severe form of epilepsy. Some studies have also shown that CBD also has a positive impact on chronic pain and arthritis. The chemical is discrete from THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, and does not cause the high typically associated with cannabis. Certain strains, such as Charlotte’s Web, are high in CBD and low in THC.
According to some, the most profound reason to reschedule the drug is simply the fact that almost half of all US states have found it to have medicinal qualities. This is, of course, in direct conflict with what the DEA and other federal bodies claim. Furthermore, according to many experts, rescheduling the drug will hasten the legal sale of marijuana across the US, which will raise billions in tax revenue. Finally, there’s the argument that pot just isn’t a hard drug. According to recent polls, over 100 million—roughly one third of all Americans—have tried cannabis at least once. This includes Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich, John Kerry, Arnold Schwarzenegger, George W. Bush and Michael Bloomberg.