Post-Dispatch: DEA’s Failure to Reclassify Marijuana Tantamount to ‘Reefer Madness’

marijuana-istockBy Editorial Board
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Drug Enforcement Administration officials must be smoking something if they actually believe that heroin and marijuana deserve to be listed in the same category as controlled substances posing extreme dangers to public health. The two aren’t even in the same drug universe.

For years, the DEA has designated marijuana, along with heroin, ecstasy, LSD and peyote, as Schedule I controlled substances. “Schedule I drugs are considered the most dangerous class of drugs with a high potential for abuse and potentially severe psychological and/or physical dependence,” the DEA says.

That not only ignores reality and makes almost no scientific sense, but in effect ties the hands of researchers looking for ways to expand the legitimate medicinal uses of marijuana. But last week theDEA reaffirmed marijuana’s Schedule I classification, though it made it easier for research facilities to get permission to grow and study it.

Consider what the DEA classifies as Schedule II drugs less threatening than pot: the opioid drug fentanyl, which was behind the death of rock star Prince; cocaine; methamphetamine; and oxycodone — uniformly decried by U.S. officials as contributing to the nation’s opioid and heroin addiction epidemic.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that in 2014, 4.176 million people in the U.S. “abused” marijuana. About 3 percent, or 138,000, sought treatment for dependency. That same year, theNational Institutes of Health stated that 215 million Americans older than 18 reported having drunk alcohol, 16.3 million of whom acknowledged having alcohol use disorder. Despite an addiction rate far higher than marijuana, alcohol gets a pass under the DEA’s standards.

Medicinal or recreational marijuana use is legal in 25 states. Alcohol and marijuana are the two most popular recreational intoxicants. The only difference is that any use of marijuana is labeled 100 percent of the time as “abuse” by the DEA, just like shooting up heroin. There’s less science than superstition in this.

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