Pubdate: Wed, 20 Feb 2008
Source: Willits News (CA)
Copyright: 2008 Willits News
Author:   Linda Williams, TWN Staff Writer
Bookmark: (Cannabis - California)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


It remains unclear why the U.S. Food and Drug Administration 
continues to classify marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug, the most 
dangerous classification available along with heroin, PCP (angel 
dust) and LSD, while in 1998 classifying Marinol, a synthetic THC 
(the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana), as a Schedule 3 
drug. This despite polls showing most Americans would support reclassification.

Even a reclassification of marijuana to a Schedule 2 category such as 
cocaine and coca leaves, raw opium and poppy straw, morphine and 
methamphetamines, would allow physicians to prescribe it for medical 
patients and pharmacies to dispense it.

In 1996, when California led 12 other states in passing medical 
marijuana protection, the language in Proposition 215 encouraged the 
federal and state governments to work together to resolve any 
conflicts. Many who voted for Prop. 215 assumed it would take little 
time before doctors could legally prescribe marijuana and patients 
could pick it up at their local pharmacy.

More than 11 years later, the situation remains conflicted between 
state, federal and even local laws, which has encouraged an entire 
new class of lawless "bootleggers" to supply medical marijuana needs, 
reminiscent to many of the time of Prohibition (1920-1933) when 
drinking alcohol was illegal in the United States.

Prohibition brought with it the rise of organized crime to supply the 
illegal market and "speakeasies" with bootleg alcohol. At the time, 
the cost to enforce Prohibition was high, no tax revenues were 
received on the illegal hooch and a highly profitable and violent 
black market system supplied alcohol to nearly every corner of the 
nation. Some of the alcohol was made locally and some imported 
illegally from Canada and Mexico. The parallel between the current 
marijuana culture in Mendocino County and the Prohibition years is striking.

The continued classification of marijuana by the federal government 
with such serious drugs as heroin and PCP appears to contradict the 
government's own research. If the Food and Drug Administration had 
reclassified marijuana sometime since 1996, much of the conflict 
between state and federal laws associated with medical marijuana 
would have been resolved. Doctors prescribe Schedule II drugs and 
pharmacies fill those prescriptions every day throughout the country. 
Unauthorized use and sale of Schedule II drugs are still illegal but 
the rules provide a way for doctors legally to prescribe them to patients.

Much of the literature associated with keeping marijuana as a 
Schedule I drug centers around its addictive qualities, this despite 
substantial research that has debunked this. It has also been dubbed 
the "gateway drug" despite the federal governments own research to 
the contrary. Even the Office of National Drug Control Policy states 
"smoking marijuana may allow patients to temporarily feel better." 
Most Schedule 2 drugs are also addictive and many have serious side effects.

There are two ways for a drug to be reclassified, the FDA can do it 
administratively or Congress can act. The administration of the FDA 
under both presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush have consistently 
refused to consider the reclassification in large part because it is 
a plant and not a formulated drug with full scale testing sponsored 
by a pharmaceutical drug company. "The federal government along with 
many state governments and private antidrug organizations staunchly 
maintains that botanical marijuana is a dangerous drug without any 
legitimate medical use," according to a 2006 congressional policy assessment.

Bills have been defeated during the past five Congressional terms, 
which would have either reclassified marijuana or prevented the U.S. 
Department of Justice from prosecuting medical marijuana users, 
cultivators or distributors.

"Rescheduling seems to be supported by public opinion. A nationwide 
Gallup Poll conducted in March 1999 found that 73 percent of American 
adults favor "making marijuana legally available for doctors to 
prescribe in order to reduce pain and suffering." An American 
Association of Retired Persons poll of American adults age 45 and 
older conducted in mid-November 2004 found 72 percent agree that 
adults "should be allowed to legally use marijuana for medical 
purposes if recommended by a physician."
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