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Tag: legalization

Denver Post: Time for DEA to Stop Stalling on Reclassifying Marijuana

marijuana-istockBy Editorial Board
Denver Post

Colorado’s now years-long experiment with legal medical and recreational cannabis markets has been mostly positive and fascinating, and yet the federal government has been slow to rethink its decades-long prohibitionist position.

We hope the Obama administration takes advantage of its historic opportunity to end or take steps toward dismantling the destructive war on pot. What an irony it would be if Obama, who has openly admitted to pot use in his early years, and who has shown great tolerance toward local legalization laws, left office without having moved the nation away from the antiquated reefer-madness enforcement of past presidencies.

The problem appears to be entrenchment at the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, which missed the July 1 deadlineit set for itself to reach a determination on whether to reclassify marijuana from its current — laughable — position as a Schedule I substance. Like heroin, the classification is reserved for the most dangerous drugs with which the DEA concerns itself.

A DEA spokesman told The Cannabist’s Alicia Wallace last week that the agency remains in the final stages of an inter-agency review. But Denver regulatory attorney Tom Downey, who recently wrote in these pages about the DEA’s reclassification or declassification options, suggested the DEA would not reach a decision this year.

To read more click here. 

What DEA Should Do with Marijuana As Agency Considers Reclassifying Marijuana

Photo by Steve Neavling.

Photo by Steve Neavling.

By Tom Downey
Denver Post

This summer may be a big moment in the national conversation about marijuana. With a decision coming by July 1, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency could partially legalize medical marijuana, and the federal government could usher in a new era with a comprehensive and multi-structural approach to pot policy. Just don’t expect to fill a marijuana brownie prescription at your local drug store any time soon.

Marijuana has been a Schedule I narcotic since 1970.  That means, in the eyes of the federal government, marijuana has no medicinal value and is highly addictive.  It is illegal under federal law to grow, possess or sell it.  To put this in perspective, cocaine is a Schedule II narcotic — legally available under highly restrictive circumstances.  The DEA’s options are to keep marijuana as Schedule I or to reschedule or de-schedule it. De-scheduling would allow use for non-medical, recreational purposes like alcohol.  Rescheduling would allow use like a regular prescription issued by a physician and filled by a pharmacy under a DEA license, like Codeine. If this happened, marijuana prescriptions would almost certainly be allowed only in traditional medicinal forms, such as pills and extract drops and perhaps topical lotions and nebulizers.  It’s unlikely that the DEA and the Food and Drug Administration would allow prescriptions for smokable marijuana or pot brownies and other edibles.

Although legal under state law in more than half the states, marijuana is still illegal federally, and federal law trumps. Since 2009, the federal government has followed a policy of non-enforcement.  In short, the federal government is not enforcing federal marijuana laws, as long as anyone involved is in compliance with state marijuana laws.  It is akin to the non-enforcement of traffic laws, for speeding a few miles per hour over the limit.

If the DEA keeps marijuana on Schedule I, the federal government risks continued suffering by those with true medical ailments and continued lack of scientific study.  The DEA would be wildly out of step with rapidly changing public opinion.  If the DEA de-schedules marijuana, big tobacco companies could take over, and the fears of many anti-marijuana advocates would be realized.

To read more click here. 

Other Stories of Interest

Experts: DEA Unlikely to Re-Classify Marijuana Despite Public Pressure to Do So

MarijuanaBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The DEA pledged in April it would review marijuana’s classification so that it could be researched for possible medicinal benefits.

But don’t expect the DEA to change the current classification of marijuana as a Schedule I drug, which means it is in the “most dangerous class” of substances.

Business Insider interviewed drug-policy experts who believe the DEA won’t make the change despite a monumental shift in the public’s attitude about marijuana, which has been legalized in many states for medicinal purposes.

“DEA will carry out its assessment of the FDA recommendation in accordance with the [Controlled Substances Act] … and hopes to release its determination in the first half of 2016,” the DEA said in a letter to a group of Democratic senators, first obtained by The Huffington Post.

By changing the classification, it would clear the way for legalizing marijuana more broadly.

Other Stories of Interest

New DEA Chief: Marijuana ‘Probably Not’ As Dangerous As Heroin

Marijuana

Photo by Steve Neavling

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The new head of the DEA says marijuana is “probably not” as dangerous as heroin, a position that was in contrast to his predecessor, the U.S. News & World Report. 

Acting Administrator Chuck Rosenberg said the DEA would not prioritize marijuana enforcement, but emphasized that agents are still going to pursue pot cases.

“If you want me to say that marijuana’s not dangerous, I’m not going to say that because I think it is,” Rosenberg said. “Do I think it’s as dangerous as heroin? Probably not. I’m not an expert.”

He added: “Let me say it this way: I’d rather be in a car accident going 30 miles an hour than 60 miles an hour, but I’d prefer not to be in a car accident at all.”

Marijuana advocates praised Rosenberg for being less aggressive with marijuana than his predecessor, Michele Leonhart.

“This is not a matter of opinion,” Dan Riffle, director of federal policies at the pro-legalization Marijuana Policy Project, says. “It’s far less harmful than heroin and it’s encouraging that the DEA is finally willing to recognize that.”

Other Stories of Interest

Parker: Strongest Medical Evidence Yet of the Harm from Marijuana Legalization

Ross Parker

 
Ross Parker was chief of the criminal division in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit for 8 years and worked as an AUSA for 28 in that office.
 
By Ross Parker
ticklethewire.com

The evidence continues to mount of the dangerous health risks of today’s potent forms of marijuana, especially to segments of the population such as juveniles and young adults. But the medical evidence seems to be having little effect in view of a combination of denial, lack of political will, and ignorance on the part of state legislators and the public in general, as well as the well organized and financed forces of legalization.

Last week The New England Journal of Medicine, probably the most respected medical journal in the United States, reported in an article entitled, “Adverse Effects of Marijuana Use,” by four physicians and researchers that there is a substantial level of scientific confidence that the drug can result in addiction, memory and cognitive function damage, impairment of motor function, and long lasting negative changes in brain function. Their conclusion was that increased availability from legalization will significantly increase the negative health consequences to the population.

As shown in other studies, short term use makes it difficult to learn and retain information. Driving skills are impaired. Risky behavior and even paranoia and psychosis can result. Long term use can alter brain development, encourages dropping out of school, a lower IQ during adolescence, reduced satisfaction and achievement, chronic bronchitis, and an increased risk of schizophrenia.

Although the study advises that there can be other factors involved in these devastating results, the link between marijuana and social factors such as lower income, more public assistance, unemployment, criminal behavior, and a lower life satisfaction has been established by several studies. People who used the drug before driving were from 2 to 7 times as likely to be responsible for an accident than those who had not used alcohol or marijuana.

The increase in the average potency of THC content continues to increase, from 3% in the 1980s to 12% in 2012. As the cultivation continues to become more sophisticated in states like Colorado and California, one could expect this figure to increase significantly and, correspondingly, to increase the extent of the adverse effects on increasing numbers of people in the population. Increased emergency room visits (100 % increase from 2004 to 2011) and reports to poison control centers (three times the number in legalization states) forcefully demonstrate that this phenomenon is well under way.

Importantly, this steep increase in the THC content also calls into question the validity of all of those studies done in previous decades. The assurances of those early studies, on which pro-legalization forces rely so heavily to assuage the reluctance of state legislators, are worth little in the face of these statistics and the recent medical studies.

The article reports that there is evidence that marijuana or other cannabinoids may benefit symptoms associated with certain clinical conditions such as glaucoma, nausea, inflammatory diseases, MS, and epilepsy. However, more research is necessary to confirm these findings, as well as to determine the most effective form of administration.

Since medical marijuana prescriptions issued to adults are a major source of recreational use by juveniles, states must develop an effective method of regulation, as well as education about the dangers of both inadvertent and commercial distribution for non-medical use. Anyone who reviews medical marijuana advertisements or talks to law enforcement officers about the level of therapeutics of many of such clinics, can only question whether the drug legalization is actually accomplishing a fraction of the benefits touted by its advocates.

Recently, I walked around Venice and Santa Monica beaches in southern California. The number and appearances of the “medical” marijuana clinics in the narrow streets leading to the beaches were strikingly non-medical to everyone I was with. The medical purpose of such businesses seemed like a joke. A local federal agent confirmed that the great majority of the large amounts dispensed were universally known to be used recreationally and were so ubiquitous as to be unenforceable. The genie was out of the bottle.

Twenty-two states have legalized marijuana use in some form or another. One can only hope that other states will pause in this trend and consider the mounting medical evidence of significant health and well being problems in so many different categories. Perhaps studies in the 22 states will demonstrate that the cost of these policies is so great as to demand reconsideration.

 

Defiant DEA Chief: Pot Legalization Just ‘Makes Us Fight Harder’

Michele Leonhart

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

As marijuana legalization shifts in public opinion, state laws and within the Obama administration, the DEA is pledging to fight even harder, said DEA Chief Michele Leonhart Wednesday.

The Huffington Post reports that Leonhart, speaking during testimony before a House Appropriations subcommittee, maintains voters were duped into approving marijuana legalization in Washington state and Colorado by pot propaganda.

“It’s of great concern to us the messages we hear on television, in the radio, in songs — and now, my fear is that kids are hearing it from their own parents,” Leonhart said. “It’s important to have the facts about marijuana put out there in ways that kids, teens, young adults, parents can look at it and see that what they’ve been sold — that this is no big deal — is not true.”

Dan Riffle, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, questioned why Obama is holding onto Leonhart since she is obstructing his administration’s policies.

“Publicly criticizing and questioning the competence of your supervisor would get anyone fired in the private sector,” Riffle said in a statement. “It’s frankly astounding to me that Ms. Leonhart is still employed and American taxpayers continue to foot her $165,000 salary to publicly campaign against the president’s policies.”

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Is Pot More Dangerous Than Alcohol? DEA Deputy Director Refuses to Answer Question Before Congress

 Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

It was a simple question: Is marijuana more dangerous than alcohol?

Yet DEA Deputy Director Thomas Harrigan wouldn’t provide an answer during a House oversight committee hearing.

Rep. Steve Cohen, D-TN, asked because DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart insisted in January that pot is more dangerous than alcohol.

“Marijuana is a Schedule I controlled substance that Congress has passed, Congress has agreed to,” Harrigan responded.

“We’re not talking about that,” Cohen fired back. “Marijuana as it is standing on its own. Is it worse than alcohol, that kills tens of thousands of people and causes much violence and cirrhosis of the liver and DTs?”

Harrigan replied: “Again, marijuana is a Schedule I controlled drug.”

Cohen gave up.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

President Obama: Marijuana No Worse Than Drinking Alcohol; Laws Should Be More Equitable

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

President Obama said smoking marijuana is no worse than drinking alcohol.

“As has been well documented, I smoked pot as a kid, and I view it as a bad habit and a vice, not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my adult life,” Obama said in an interview with the New Yorker. “I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol.”

Obama also showed support for legalizations of marijuana in Colorado and Washington and said it would create a more equitable justice system.

“It’s important for it to go forward because it’s important for society not to have a situation in which a large portion of people have at one time or another broken the law and only a select few get punished,” Obama said.