Reclassifying Marijuana Could Have a Significant Impact on Drug Policy
According to the U.S. government, marijuana has a “high potential for abuse” and “no currently accepted medical use.” This is the definition of the category (Schedule I) it was placed in under the 1970 Controlled Substances Act (CSA) — along with heroin, LSD, and ecstasy. According to the category’s definition, marijuana is one of the “most dangerous drugs” with “potentially severe psychological or physical dependence.”
While marijuana surely can be abused (what can’t?), it is highly debatable whether marijuana meets any of those criteria. Its potential for abuse seems lower than that of many pharmaceuticals, not to mention alcohol and tobacco, which the CSA excludes from its schedules.
In an interview that aired last week, President Obama was asked if he was open to reconsidering marijuana’s status as a Schedule I drug, in light of his recent observation that marijuana is safer than alcohol. Obama incorrectly claimed that moving marijuana to a less restrictive legal category would require an act of Congress.
In terms of abuse potential, marijuana could be placed in a lower schedule. “When you look at the Schedule IV drugs, you’ve got the opiate Tramadol, the stimulant Modafinil, lethal sedatives like phenobarbital and chloral hydrate, and the ‘date rape’ drug rohypnol. Surely cannabis is safer than these,” argues SUNY at Albany psychologist Mitch Earleywine, author of Understanding Marijuana.
In 1988, Administrative Law Judge Francis Young urged the DEA to reschedule marijuana, calling it “one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man.”
Though the advantages of reclassifying marijuana wouldn’t be as substantial as one might think, given the complicated nature of this issue, it would facilitate a more honest discussion of marijuana’s hazards and benefits.
i’ve only done it a few times, but smoking at 4am, with your head out the window, smelling the fresh morning breeze and savoring the rare moment of uninterrupted silence just before the sun comes up is probably one of the most relaxing and underrated things in the world