The federal drug schedule, how it was created and why it’s so totally fucked
What's in America's forbidden drug cabinet, and why?
When President Dick Nixon signed the Controlled Substances Act of 1971, he wasn’t worried about any kind of “drug epidemic.” He wasn’t fearful for the health and safety of the nation. He wasn’t concerned that marijuana or mushrooms or peyote or even cocaine posed a real threat to the stability of America.
He just wanted to put as many hippies and minorities in jail as he possibly could. Those people would never vote for him, after all. They were better off rotting behind bars, where they couldn’t support Nixon’s opponents.
But how? How could he systematically target the minority and hippie communities? How could he jail the opposition?
By making their drugs of choice illegal. It was an elegant and creative (if totally fucked up) plan. Thus, was born the Controlled Substances Act and America’s “War on Drugs” officially began.
The legislation also created the federal drug schedules 1-5. Which, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) were put in charge of defining and categorizing.
Schedule 1, the most renowned and serious schedule of drugs, is reserved only for the most dangerous substances known to man. Schedule 1 drugs are supposed to be highly addictive, unsafe to use even under medical supervision and have absolutely no medical applications whatsoever. These drugs are so illegal that even scientifically researching them in a lab is largely forbidden by our government. Schedule 1 drugs are a threat to the very fabric of our civilized society.
So, say the Feds.
But, when you take a close look at which drugs are actually listed as Schedule 1 substances, those requirements seem absolutely absurd: Marijuana, magic mushrooms, LSD, MDMA, peyote, ibogaine, and DMT are all on the list. None of them should be, but there they are, classified by the DEA and FDA as medicinally and therapeutically useless, highly addictive and dangerous.
Why? Because, simply, those were the drugs that you could catch hippies and blacks and Mexicans using. And if possession of those drugs was illegal, then you could arrest and imprison them, no problem.
And here’s the really ugly rub of this whole situation, the Catch 22 that has kept those drugs on the schedule 1 list for so long: No schedule 1 drug can be thoroughly researched until it is taken off of Schedule 1; and until a Schedule 1 drug is researched we have no way of proving that it has medical or therapeutic uses. These drugs are stuck — even if they can help treat PTSD, or addiction, or anxiety, arthritis, epilepsy and the tragic condition of being itself.
Meanwhile drugs like fentanyl, meth, opium and cocaine are happily hanging out in schedule 2.
The federal drug schedules of the Controlled Substances Act are all kinds of fucked up. They were fucked up from their very start — from the get-go they were more of a political tool for Nixon to cement his power-base, than any kind of health or safety regulation. Which seems obvious when you look at which drugs are scheduled, how and why.
And sadly, that’s not something that’s likely to change on a federal level any time soon. Sure, places like Denver and Oakland are decriminalizing some of these schedule 1 drugs locally, and the state-legalization of marijuana is sweeping the nation, regardless of what the Feds have to say about it.
But until the schedules are re-defined and the restrictions on researching schedule 1 drugs are dissolved, America might never fully understand what’s in its forbidden drug cabinet.