Pubdate: Wed, 01 Jun 2016
Source: Deseret News (Salt Lake City, UT)
Copyright: 2016 Deseret News Publishing Corp.


In the not-too-distant past, we would have considered it unwise, and 
perhaps even dangerous, to change the federal classification of 
marijuana from a schedule 1 to a schedule 2 drug. But that was before 
24 states and the District of Columbia passed laws legalizing the 
drug either for medicinal or recreational uses.

The fact is, those states acted without any scientific basis, and 
they have turned wide swaths of the nation into incubator labs for a 
drug with physical, psychological and, perhaps, some beneficial 
medicinal consequences. With marijuana already unleashed in such an 
officially sanctioned way, the need to study it is imperative.

That is why the federal Drug Enforcement Administration needs to 
reclassify marijuana as a schedule 2 drug. If the agency doesn't do 
so - and some experts believe it won't, even though the DEA has said 
it would consider the move this summer - Congress should act.

As long as marijuana remains a schedule 1 drug, researchers are 
restricted as to how they may study it. They can do so only under a 
license issued by the DEA, and they may obtain samples only from an 
approved government garden. Institutions also are skittish about 
allowing such research, for fear of how donors may react, or of the 
tight controls necessary to ensure the drug is not misused.

As a schedule 2 drug, marijuana would be studied in ways that are 
plentiful, thorough and peer-reviewed. Data finally could begin to 
answer questions about the plant's effectiveness as a drug to treat 
pain or other maladies.

As it stands today, doctors in states where marijuana is legal for 
medicinal purposes have no idea what dosages to prescribe or what 
outcomes to expect for their patients. States are legalizing the drug 
based largely on the anecdotal experiences of users who testify at 
hearings. It's hard to imagine any other chemical treatment that 
would win governmental approval in this manner.

Thorough, peer-reviewed studies also would shed light on the effects 
of recreational marijuana use. Because limited studies so far 
indicate it stays in the blood stream long after its potency has 
subsided, and that smoking the same amount can affect different 
people in different ways, marijuana poses challenges for lawmakers 
trying to write laws to protect people from impaired drivers.

What we know so far is that marijuana is far from harmless. Its 
advocates are fond of saying it is safer than alcohol, but that is 
hardly a reassuring comparison, given the many physical, 
psychological and social problems associated with excessive alcohol 

The federal government's drug abuse website lists the short-term 
effects of marijuana, including impaired memory, an altered sense of 
time and mood changes. It lists long-term effects, including 
respiratory and heart ailments, paranoia and its link to brain 
defects in unborn children.

We are tempted to chide governments for irresponsibly legitimizing 
this drug without regard for the health and safety of their people. 
But we have consistently sounded this warning, and yet the tide of 
acceptance has continued.

A survey by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 
published last year, found that 9.5 percent of Americans smoked 
marijuana in 2012-13, which was up from 4.1 percent in 2001-02.

It's hardly surprising that legalization has led to an increase in 
consumption. But that increase makes it doubly important for 
researchers to provide accurate information about marijuana, its 
effects and its potential benefits.

For that to happen, Washington needs to make it a schedule 2 drug.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom