CANNABIS CULTURE- Marijuana’s inclusion as a Schedule I drug makes little sense, but it impacts people’s lives every day. Drug schedules affect the legality of a drug, so when someone is arrested for marijuana use or possession, they may face the same consequences as someone with a heroin possession charge.
This just doesn’t seem right.
Cannabis is legal on the state-level in nearly half of the country. Yet, federally it remains amongst the most restricted substances. And now, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, has doubled down on this anti-Cannabis stance, despite volumes of scientific evidence and public demand pushing the other way.
The Drug Enforcement Agency, or DEA, classifies drugs and substances used to make drugs into categories called schedules. The highest schedule, Schedule I, is reserved for the most dangerous drugs. Schedule V is the least dangerous, according to their specific standards. Some elements affecting classification are whether the drug can be abused, whether it can be used medically and its potential for dependency.
Though the DEA’s explanation of its classification system seems straightforward, it’s quite complex. For instance, a drug labeled Schedule I isn’t necessary illegal. The DEA categorizes these drugs under the Controlled Substance Act, the CSA, which was enacted in the early 1970s by President Nixon.
How Drugs Are Scheduled
For a drug to be put on a schedule, the DEA first determines whether it can be abused. If so, it’s placed on a schedule. If not, it’s off the list. Once it’s determined the drug should be on the schedule, the DEA decides its category by considering whether it can be used medically, and its potential for abuse.
These two factors are crucial. The first — its medical value — is determined through large-scale clinical trials. It must be backed by mountains of research. The second criteria, its potential for abuse, is determined by whether people would use it recreationally, and whether its use would pose a health hazard or a risk to society.
If a drug has no medical value and is deemed addictive, it will land on Schedule I. Schedule II drugs may have some medical use, but still have potential for abuse. Schedule V drugs are the least regulated. For instance, a drug like cocaine would be a Schedule II drug because it had some medical use in the past, but is highly addictive. Robitussin AC, which can be abused, but rarely is, will be listed as Schedule V.
Classification of Common Drugs
For the most part, there are strong similarities among the drugs in each classification. Consider this list of categories and the common drugs in each:
• Schedule I. Heroin, LSD, ecstasy, peyote and marijuana
• Schedule II: Oxycodone, Vicodin, cocaine, meth, Ritalin and Adderall
• Schedule III: Anabolic steroids, Tylenol with codeine, testosterone and ketamine
• Schedule IV: Darvocet, Valium, Ambien and Xanax
• Schedule V: Parepectolin, Lyrica, Lomotil, Motofen and Robitussin AC
Of these listings, one glaringly strange classification juts out — marijuana as a Schedule I drug. Unlike the other drugs in this category, all of which are highly addictive and have no medical purpose, no one has died from a pot overdose, and there is a plethora of medical indications for it.
There have been attempts to get marijuana on a more reasonable schedule, but they have failed. The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws have been fighting this classification for the past 22 years, but the DEA has rejected all petitions for these changes.
Fighting an Uphill Battle: Big Pharma’s Intrusion
From over-the-counter pain killers to diabetes medication, if marijuana use became more mainstream and less stigmatized, it would be a serious dent in the bottom line of Big Pharma. While we are seeing promise in new industries developing because of medical marijuana progression, the biggest setback for marijuana’s change in classification has been the lack of medical research into its value. But with current government restrictions, doing that research has been nearly impossible.
While advocates have been working diligently to change marijuana’s scheduling, one industry in particular has been creating road blocks with lobbying and money — the pharmaceutical industry. They’ve poured money into anti-marijuana initiatives across the country. Considering the benefits that medical marijuana could offer, they do have a lot to lose if it becomes legal at the federal level.
A Different Approach to Affect Change
For marijuana advocates, changing the drug’s classification would be a win, but it would be mostly symbolic. While it’s laughable to toss pot into the same category as heroin, it is similarly silly to categorize it with cocaine. The problem rests, at least in part, with the country’s reliance on an antiquated system that uses a compass from the 1970s to guide classification.
Categorizing these drugs seems to have little impact, expect for its use in the courts. Schedules have become a way to determine legal penalties for drug users. Since the classification system itself is flawed and created with a racist mentality, it may be time for the government to rethink the system entirely.