Weed still being illegal has a lot to do with monkeys that love to get high

Weed still being illegal has a lot to do with monkeys that love to get high

VicesAugust 21, 2017 By Brian Frederick

Think of the inner-workings of the government as something like a grandfather clock. It ticks, it tocks; keeping time the same way it has since the 1600s. Back and forth, left to right. The world around it changes, drastically, yet the granddaddy of present goes on, slow, slower, slower …

It’s not that the framework of a second has changed in four hundred years, it’s our perception of it. What once took decades to produce — like technological advances and the cycle of fashion trends — now turns over fresh ideas in days. It’s why, when looking at the DEA and its particular (arguably archaic) stance on marijuana, it seems to be taking forever to get anything done.

With papers obtained by VICE News, however, we have a better idea why that is. Turns out, monkeys love to get stoned, which is a main reason why the FDA doesn’t think weed has any medicinal value. Wait, what?

A few months back, the DEA refused to reschedule pot, ruling that is has “no currently accepted medical use” and is a drug with “high potential for abuse.” It chose to keep it where it is now, which is at a Schedule I classification — one tick ‘more volatile’ than that of meth and cocaine.

The decision wasn’t just simply lights-out though, because the DEA did agree to lessen restrictions on who can grow and study the plant. Before, only one university in the nation was able to legally grow weed with the feds’ blessing. And only a handful of places could actually get it from that grow to safely study it.

The bizarre Schedule I ruling, however, keeps ‘legal’ grows and dispensaries around the nation in a weird limbo. At any time, the feds have the right to enforce federal law, and could very well scoop everything up with no motive other than them having a bad day. That particular scenario is unlikely, given the fact that some 60 percent of Americans now think weed should be legal — but the possibility still haunts businesses in cannabis.

This November, five states are voting to legalize recreational pot — including California, Maine and Nevada — while four others are deciding on medical marijuana. If all measures pass, it will mean that well over half the nation allows legal weed in some manner or another. This (likely) particular tipping point is going to be hard for the DEA to ignore and could provide more breathing room for entrepreneurs.

But what about those damn monkeys?

In files obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, the DEA reportedly sought advice from the FDA when it was deciding on whether or not to reschedule weed a full year before in mid-2015.

The documents include a memo between two top FDA officials, a letter from the agency to the DEA’s chief, and the full response to two petitions to reschedule marijuana filed in 2012 by the former governors of Rhode Island and Washington and in 2009 by a psychiatric nurse practitioner who helped write New Mexico’s medical marijuana law, says VICE.

Highlights of it include:

  • Marijuana is addictive to monkeys. The FDA cited a study conducted in 2000 on squirrel monkeys that were trained to self-administer THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in weed. Researchers found that the monkeys liked to get high, and the FDA said such studies are “often useful in predicting rewarding effects in humans, and is indicative of abuse liability.”
  • People prefer to smoke marijuana. Noting that many people prefer to smoke marijuana rather than take it in pill form, the FDA compared weed to cocaine, opium, heroin, and meth. “The intense psychoactive drug effect achieved rapidly by smoking is generally considered to produce the effect desired by the abuser,” the FDA wrote, adding, “this effect explains why abusers often prefer to administer certain drugs by inhalation… rather than orally.”
  • Getting high makes users feel funny. The FDA listed nine common effects of marijuana, including “increased merriment and appetite,” “heightened imagination,” “disorganized thinking,” “illusions, delusions, and hallucinations,” and “agitation, paranoia, confusion, drowsiness, and panic attacks, which are most common in experienced or high-dosed users.”
  • It’s easy to buy weed. The agency noted that marijuana is “more widely available from illicit sources rather than through legitimate channels,” which seems obvious considering that the drug remains illegal for nonmedical users in all but four states.
  • Marijuana is popular. In a section about the “history and current pattern of abuse,” the FDA cites 2012 data that says 111.2 million Americans — more than 42 percent of the U.S. population — used marijuana at least once, and 7.6 million people use it on a “daily or almost daily basis.”

Barring some sort of apocalyptic existential crisis happening in politics, we’re going to see the DEA rescheduling weed in our lifetimes (or de-scheduling altogether, like that of alcohol and tobacco). How quick it happens depends entirely on congress and the load it currently bears with other issues. Judging by the weight people at the top of the chain put on monkeys and their desire to get stoned like the rest of us, it’s clear the road has a few horizons to topple before the country finds the end of it.

There’s hope for the future, but it’s a long road-trip to get there. Years will pass, cycles will continue. Tick tock, tick tock.