Is marijuana really as dangerous as heroin and LSD? Finally, a welcome legal review
A federal judge has acted on what Congress and the Obama administration have failed to bring up — A discussion on whether marijuana should continue to be classified as a Schedule 1 drug, a classification that is supposed to be used only for the most dangerous, addictive drugs, such as heroin and lsd.
It shouldn’t take a judge to point out that mixing cannabis in with heroin and claiming it to have no medicinal value at all is arbitrary and unnecessary.
As part of a criminal trial involving alleged cannabis growers in Northern California, U.S. District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller held a five-day meeting late last year to calculate the current scientific research on marijuana use and to evaluate whether the Schedule 1 designation is unconstitutional, as the defendants contend. Final discussions are expected for next month.
This debate is a welcome one. Whether the Drug Enforcement Administration’s classification is constitutional or not, it shouldn’t take a judge to point out that incorporating cannabis with heroin and deeming it to have no medicinal value at all is illogical and unnecessary.
Frankly, government policy on cannabis is in turmoil. Federal law says marijuana has no established medicinal value, yet 23 states have legalized it for medical use. It has been put on the list of drugs that hold the most severe consequences for drug crimes, but Congress and the Obama administration have also passed legislation that stops funding for the enforcement of federal marijuana laws in states that allow medical marijuana. That law, passed in December, in effect concluded the prohibition of medical marijuana in nearly half the states. Meanwhile, Colorado and Washington have been unofficially allowed by the federal government to legalize recreational use of cannabis.
Even as lawmakers soften enforcement, federal authorities, including the prosecutors in Mueller’s courtroom, defend the Schedule 1 designation, claiming there are not enough long-term research on the medicinal value and health hazards of marijuana use to justify reclassifying it. But the DEA has for over 10 years has made it almost impossible for analyst to obtain the drug for study. The lack of research hasn’t stopped many states from proceeding with the use of the drug for pain relief and other therapeutic purposes, but it has denied doctors and patients important information about the dangers or benefits. The agency began increasing government production of marijuana for research only last year.
Legalization supporters hope Mueller will rule that federal marijuana policy is unconstitutional. Although her decision would apply only to the defendants in this case and could be appealed, a ruling against the existing policy could influence other defendants to file similar motions. But the country’s drug laws should not be ruled in the courts. It’s long past time for Washington to revisit the war on drugs, and officials can start by reclassifying medical marijuana so it can be regulated more as a prescription drug.
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