The DEA still thinks weed is as bad as heroin, chooses not to reschedule it

The DEA still thinks weed is as bad as heroin, chooses not to reschedule it

VicesAugust 12, 2016 By Isabelle Kohn

Remember a few months back, when the DEA announced it was considering the rescheduling of marijuana to a lesser-controlled substance? You know, one that wasn't on par with GHB or heroin? Everyone was all kinds of psyched, because if it was moved to a Schedule II, III or IV substance, the FDA could finally conduct the research it needed to in order to determine standard dosing, safer products and blah blah blah.

Well, the DEA has just returned with their decision, and it's a very firm, very disappointing "HELL NAH."

"The DEA and the FDA continue to believe that scientifically valid and well-controlled clinical trials conducted under investigational new drug (IND) applications are the most appropriate way to conduct research on the medicinal uses of marijuana," said a statement from the DEA.

Marijuana, it seems, will remain a Schedule l controlled substance, which means it has "no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse." This keeps the drug in the same category as heroin, meth and MDMA, perpetuating the very false belief many of these things are dangerous and useless. Despite the fact that, you know, medical marijuana is a thing because it has medical use.

This is really just insane. How is it possible, in a country where 25 states (and Washington D.C.) have some sort of legal weed provision, that the DEA could still deem it to be as dangerous as heroin? In states like Colorado, Washington and Oregon, people literally buy weed in stores like they're buying bananas. Yet, the DEA still feels the need to treat it as some sort of radioactive poison and to continue to circulate fear about its use.

Never mind the fact that marijuana has a zero percent fatality rate. It's never killed anyone. Unlike many of the prescription drugs our doctors in this country hand out like candy.

Meanwhile, alcohol kills 88,000 Americans every year, while tobacco kills 480,000. And pharmaceutical overdose is the leading cause of accident-related death in this country. Can someone explain to use why those things are not scheduled, but marijuana is?

This decision is bad news for the future of marijuana research. Currently, the only way that a government-sanctioned study can look at marijuana in the US is to go through the University of Mississippi, which has held the sole license to grow research-grade marijuana in the entire country since 1968. Yet, not only is obtaining research weed from them difficult, but the politics surrounding doing so make it hard to conduct a fair experiment seeing as the the express mission of the University of Mississippi's marijuana program is to prove its harm and abuse potential.

Translation? If you want to study weed in America, the results of your experiment better be that weed sucks ass.

Unsurprisingly, this leaves marijuana researchers in a pretty debilitating Catch-22.

In order to have more research that proves whether marijuana is healthy or harmful, scientists need to do more studies. But in order to do that, their studies must be approved by federal agencies, including the DEA, the FDA and occasionally the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the largest public funder of marijuana research.

However, there is a small consolation here: recognizing this same research snafu, the DEA announced that it "will allow additional entities to apply to become registered with DEA so that they may grow and distribute marijuana for FDA-authorized research." The DEA will oversee the new growers, but given the agency's political leaning towards the anti-weed side of things, we wouldn't be surprised if these new additional growers also have some sort of "express mission."

These new grows are definitely a big deal for scientists who've been trying to get access to quality study drugs, but ... for the rest of us non-researchers, the DEA's decision still kind of sucks.

It means people in certain states can still serve unthinkably long prison sentences for possessing minor quantities of weed, that the black market and drug cartels can continue to flourish in places that have no access to legal pot, that dispensaries can still only deal with cash and have no protection for banks, and that many people who need marijuana as medicine will still struggle with access to it ... unless they make like everyone else and move to Colorado.

As Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Oregon, said in a statement, "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."

Our theory? Big Pharma strikes again. As we outlined in a previous article, ultra-rich, ultra-powerful pharmaceutical companies are doing everything they can to keep weed as illegal as possible because legal marijuana directly impacts drug sales. When people have access to healthier, less expensive, less deadly options for medical care, well, they chose them. Monstanto and friends no likey that.

Long story short, the DEA's decision is backwards and depressing, and you'd think that in a country where 62 percent of people support legal marijuana, its representative agencies would do their job and mirror the values of the people they serve but —  nope, nope and nope.

Meanwhile, in Colorado ... the DEA's decision doesn't really seem to be affecting us too much: