Need to reclassify cannabis

Now that the federal government has finally, belatedly given the OK to a long-delayed study looking at marijuana as a treatment for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, the same government needs to take another step and remove the legal hypocrisy that prevents such research in the first place.

The problem hindering medical cannabis is the fact that since the passage of the 1970 Controlled Substances Act, marijuana has been classified as a Schedule 1 drug, the statute’s most restrictive category, along with LSD, peyote and ecstasy, meaning that it is highly addictive, and has no medical value. Both statements are false. But the classification remains, thanks to the DEA, despite petitions from governors, state attorneys general, members of Congress, researchers and others over the decades requesting the change.

So if cannabis is considered dangerous and without medical value, what drugs are considered less dangerous and have medical benefits? The list of Schedule II drugs include cocaine, methamphetamine, methadone, oxycodone (OxyContin), fentanyl, Dexedrine, Adderall, and Ritalin. Hydrocodone, a lesser version of oxycodone, but commonly abused, is listed as a Schedule 3 drug. (The classifications go up to 5 (considered the least dangerous). For comparative purposes the anti-anxiety medicine Xanax is a Schedule 4, while cough medicine with less than 200 milligrams of codeine is considered Schedule 5.

Which means in a sensible world, the government would reclassify marijuana as Schedule 6, in a class of its own, since all other scheduled druges are potentially more dangerous than marijuana. Despite overwhelming science showing otherwise, and the fact that someone dies from an opioid overdose every 19 minutes in this country, cannabis is still considered more dangerous and addictive than oxycodone.

A scheduling change can come from President Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, or the DEA, or Congress. Or all of the above.

Changing the Schedule 1 classification would allow research, and would keep interested parties (patients, doctors, dispensaries, states) from the threat of committing a felony simply by recommending or using a safe substance that has myriad medical uses, as demonstrated by scientists in other countries that have no restrictions on such research.

Anecdotal and scientific evidence from veterans suffering from post traumatic stress syndrome, some of whom were on the brink of suicide, and taking many other prescribed medications to no avail, report remarkable success in using cannabis. Washington state law allows cannabis use for ptsd; the U.S. military, of course, does not.

This mess needs fixing. It’s starts with rescheduling cannabis. For the sake of veterans, other patients and common sense.

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