Last week, the DEA released its new regulations on the use and distribution of marijuana. Yet again, the federal agency disappointingly failed to end the catastrophic crusade against cannabis and instead renewed its status as a Schedule I controlled substance. The DEA contends that the scientific community has not produced substantial evidence to justify reclassification or decriminalization—a conclusion both mind-boggling and reflective of a deeply corrupt political system fueled by profit driven “big business.” The agency did, however, acknowledge the lack of thorough study and issued broader guidelines for scientific research on marijuana’s effects. The federal government will now allow academic institutions to research weed and generate reports for review. Before this point, the feds only allowed for sanctioned research done under heavy supervision that often distorted test results, especially when experiments cast a favorable light on weed (see Richard Nixon and the Shafer Commission.) Some experts say that this is a victory for the legalization crowd, but a closer analysis says otherwise and reveals that the fight is far from over.
As previously mentioned, the DEA contends that there exists an acute lack of substantive research on cannabis to justify a reclassification. However, independent studies conducted in developed nations across the globe seem to directly contradict many of the federal agency’s long held convictions on the topic. Although there are not many U.S. reports on the substance, hundreds of studies have been conducted in recent history by multiple countries around the world. In the case of medical marijuana, studies have overwhelming reported positive effects with regard to the drug’s use as a natural remedy for a wide spate of medical conditions. New Zealand, for instance, conducted a report in 2016 finding that marijuana has many health benefits including pain relief and fast acting anti-depressant properties. The same study goes on to find that the only substantially negative effect linked to cannabis use can be varying degrees of tooth damage (N.B. it is worth noting that such damage was only discovered in chronic users who smoked multiple times per day over the course of many years). Other reports go further in their analyses and find that marijuana can help ameliorate some of the symptoms of serious health conditions such as multiple-sclerosis, asthma, arthritis, epilepsy, and glaucoma, to name a few.,,. Some reports have even found preliminary evidence that cannabis may even attack certain cancer cells and could stimulate the lungs.
Despite the dearth of evidence and scholarly reports, the DEA and federal government insist that marijuana is as dangerous as heroin and even more dangerous and addictive than crystal meth. Yes, you read correctly: crystal meth is a Schedule II drug, while marijuana is marked as a Schedule I controlled substance, right alongside cocaine and heroin.
In this day in age, there are very few people who genuinely believe that marijuana is a danger to society, other than the DEA and the alcohol, tobacco and pharma industries. Also in the previous week, the “Big Alcohol” industry came together and released a statement saying that “we must be cautious of the dangers that marijuana can have on our society.” Many argue that marijuana can generate a large amount of money for the government and for new businesses, while in truth there already exists a select few who manage to make absurd profits off its current illegal status. The private prison industry in particular has managed to do just that by profiting off of the mandatory minimum sentencing laws in place for marijuana possession, use, and distribution. But it doesn’t stop there. In the status quo, doctors peddle prescriptions for specific drugs to their patients in return for handsome payouts from pharmaceutical distributors (for an interesting look, see John Oliver’s recent webisode at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YQZ2UeOTO3I). But what if doctors had the option to write prescriptions for marijuana to mitigate medical problems? Marijuana has continually proven time and time again that it works better than many pharmaceutical drugs due in large to its minimal side-affects as a natural remedy. Many over-the-counter pharmaceuticals have unforeseen, at times serious side effects that in some cases can cause discomfort, other anomalies, and sometimes even death. But for marijuana, the worst outcome currently documented could be gum disease after many years of ultra-heavy use. Further, it does not only come in bud form, which is its least potent form. It comes in oil, paste, drinks, edibles, and even sprays. The potential for medical use of marijuana in modern medicine is almost endless and serves as a prime example of the DEA and the U.S. federal government erring on the wrong side of history.
At the end of the day, the DEA and the FDA face considerable obstacles in effecting real change due in large part to the lobbying power of the pharmaceutical industry. The issue of legalization affects almost every part of our society and accentuates the outright corruption of the current system. Administrators who initiated the War on Drugs have already confessed to it being an utter failure that has devastated minority communities, prevented helpful advances in the world of medicine, and a profit driven effort to line the pockets of the pharmaceutical and private prison industries. Alcohol and tobacco have no medical use, yet they remain legal, which further undermines the DEA’s argument. Why is marijuana held to a ridiculously high threshold of scrutiny, while two of the largest industries in our country (alcohol and tobacco) are only for recreational purposes? Don’t be fooled; the alcohol and tobacco industries are among the two largest lobby groups that have fought cannabis legalization tooth and nail in an effort to limit competition and maximize profit margins. Many of the largest companies in each industry have been able to effectively regulate themselves while touting the baseless recklessness of the marijuana market. This is yet another instance of our government openly mocking common sense and openly demonstrating how paralyzed it has become as a result of corporate interests and influence. In a year where the status quo is clearly not working, the DEA has decided to stick its head in the sand yet again.
Pace University Information Systems student.