Nobody Likes Marijuana in Schedule I—Not Even Prohibitionists

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These days, you don’t have to look very hard to find people unwilling to accept the obvious.

Take climate change, which was recently questioned as a real thing in the opinion pages of the New York Times, despite soaring temperatures; 2017 had the second-warmest spring on record. The hottest-ever was last year, in 2016, the same year Americans elected as president someone who’d gone on record dismissing climate change as a Chinese hoax. To a greater degree, but in much the same vein, you can find, on this very day, people living on earth who insist the earth is flat.

In this same silo, we’d like to place people who believe, honestly, that cannabis belongs in Schedule I of the American Controlled Substances Act. But we’d like to put them in a further circle of deniers, since not even America’s leading prohibitionists think marijuana should be classified as thus.

As MassRoots’s Tom Angell reported last week, a group calling itself “Friends of the National Institute on Drug Abuse” submitted to a U.S. Senate subcommittee written testimony, asking lawmakers to criticize cannabis’s classification as Schedule I, the list of drugs with no medical value and high potential for abuse.

“The Committee is also concerned that restrictions associated with Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substance Act effectively limit the amount or type of research that can be conducted on marijuana or its component chemicals,” they wrote. “NIDA is encouraged to continue supporting a full range of research on the effects of marijuana and its components, including policy research focused on policy change and implementation across the country. The Committee also directs NIDA to provide a short report on the barriers to research that result from the classification of marijuana as a Schedule 1 substance.”

Who are these friends? As Angell noted, its “Board of Scientific Advisors” include key members of Project SAM, the nation’s leading anti-legalization advocacy organization: Kevin Sabet, who worked as a senior adviser in the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) under President Obama, and Project SAM’s chair, former Congressman Patrick Kennedy. Also signing the order was retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey, Bill Clinton’s drug czar.

Project SAM was active in Arizona, the lone state to reject a marijuana legalization measure last year, and has spent the months since constantly agitating and propagandizing against cannabis, with varying levels of integrity.

For this crew to criticize Schedule I represents a major shift.

In the past, as Angell reported, members have repeatedly attacked the notion of rescheduling.

Not that their motives are exactly pure.

Rescheduling marijuana has been a cause celebre for the marijuana movement for many years—though every effort, including a significant legal challenge, has been rejected by the DEA, which applies circular logic by citing a lack of research as justification—but in recent months, even Trump-supporting conservative Republicans have taken up the issue.

One, U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, a reactionary Republican’s reactionary, introduced legislation in Congress proposing to move marijuana to Schedule III. That’s one step further than the proposal from several U.S. senators, first introduced in 2015 but revived earlier last week, that would move cannabis to Schedule II.

Either move would allow marijuana to be more thoroughly and extensively researched than ever before.

If the Friends of NIDA have their way, the research will likely not jibe with findings from the National Academy of Sciences, which earlier this year published a major report supporting marijuana’s value as a medicine—which, if one is using simple logic, would mean it cannot be a Schedule I drug.

But for some zealots, no amount of science will be enough. 

Get a load of this “exchange” between Carl Hart, a Columbia University neuroscientist and addiction specialist, and the—ahem—former spokesman of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the federal agency mandated by Congress to oppose any change in the Controlled Substance Act.

People like this work in government. Some of them are the attorney general.

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