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The DEA Won’t Reschedule Marijuana, but That Isn’t Necessarily a Bad Thing

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Why Won’t the DEA Reschedule Marijuana?

When you think of the War on Drugs, you probably picture inner-city or even peaceful suburban neighborhoods racked by drug use and the ensuing police crackdown to stop drug abuse and addiction from harming and further endangering our society.

If you do picture this, it’s likely because that’s exactly how our government has wanted you to see it for decades: a single scapegoat for so many of society’s vices, a tangible foe to unite us against a moral crisis. And who can blame them? After all, the widespread terror caused by drugs—crime, violence, and families torn apart—is real, further instilling a classist separation between neighborhoods, a social war between civilians and police, and fueling our overfilled and ineffective prison problem.

Today, however, the War on Drugs is no longer primarily one of law enforcement against criminals, but of regular people pushing back against the government, calling for an end to decades’ worth of misinformed drug policy and those who are getting wealthier from it.

But how did that all start? And why are we so focused on keeping “safer” drugs out of the hands of the public while the truly dangerous ones are still being prescribed to us, leading to addiction and death?

marijuana dispensary choices

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Here’s what the DEA’s announcement really means.

The DEA’s Announcement

dea protest marijuana schedule i

Credit: David McNew/Getty Images

This week, in an altogether unsurprising yet still frustrating announcement, the Drug Enforcement Agency revealed that they will maintain marijuana on their list of Schedule I drugs, making it illegal for all purposes except for research.

In recent years, more and more academic groups, medical societies, politicians, and individuals have called for marijuana to be rescheduled at least as a Schedule II drug, which would make it available for medical use; keeping it as a Schedule I drug means the Food and Drug Administration confirms their belief that it has no medical use.

And that’s exactly what DEA chief Chuck Rosenberg said when he explained the agency’s unpopular choice: “This decision isn’t based on danger. This decision is based on whether marijuana, as determined by the Food and Drug Administration, is a safe and effective medicine.” Schedule II drugs are obligated to serve a medical purpose, and thus far, the government agencies researching it have not found them.

A Letter from Chuck Rosenberg

dea chief chuck rosenburg marijuana schedule i

Credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images

In fact, a letter from Rosenberg explaining the DEA’s decision to maintain marijuana’s scheduling came down to three main points:

“1) Marijuana has a high potential for abuse. The HHS evaluation and the
additional data gathered by DEA show that marijuana has a high potential for
abuse.

“2) Marijuana has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United
States
. Based on the established five-part test for making such determination,
marijuana has no “currently accepted medical use” because: As detailed in
the HHS evaluation, the drug’s chemistry is not known and reproducible;
there are no adequate safety studies; there are no adequate and well-controlled
studies proving efficacy; the drug is not accepted by qualified experts; and the
scientific evidence is not widely available.

“3) Marijuana lacks accepted safety for use under medical supervision. At
present, there are no U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved
marijuana products, nor is marijuana under a New Drug Application (NDA)
evaluation at the FDA for any indication. The HHS evaluation states that
marijuana does not have a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the
United States or a currently accepted medical use with severe restrictions. At
this time, the known risks of marijuana use have not been shown to be
outweighed by specific benefits in well-controlled clinical trials that
scientifically evaluate safety and efficacy.”

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