Pubdate: Thu, 07 Jul 2016
Source: Portland Mercury (OR)
Column: Cannabuzz
Copyright: 2016 The Portland Mercury
Author: Josh Jardine


Hold Your Horses, Rescheduling Weed Isn't Happening Just Yet

HEY, YOU GUYS, did you hear? The federal government is about to make 
weed legal. No, for reals, I saw it on Facebook, the Drug Enforcement 
Administration (DEA) is going to totally make it so doctors have to 
give it to you, for free! Thanks Obama! I'm gonna make my doctor give 
me an ounce next week!

Before you start demanding that your podiatrist procure you some 
shatter, maybe we should do what Americans sort of suck at-taking a 
pause and examining what's really up.

As my colleague in cannabis Vince Sliwoski so skillfully wrote in his 
column last week, yes, the DEA is considering rescheduling cannabis. 
And while I've written about portions of this topic in the past, you 
may have been too high to recall the edge-of-your-seat details. 
Because among the least used phrases in the English language, "Let's 
get really stoned and examine federal policy on prohibition" is a 
clear frontrunner.

Background: Since 1970, the DEA has listed cannabis as a "Schedule I" 
drug. (Not because it's so awesome that it's number one, although 
that's a great guess.) We've talked about things listed as Schedule I 
of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), which considers these drugs 
to have "a high potential for abuse" and "no currently accepted 
medical use." The other Schedule I drugs read like a shopping list 
for Hunter S. Thompson circa 1977: LSD, heroin, ecstasy, peyote, and 
methaqualone (AKA Quaaludes, AKA Bill Cosby's allergy meds for 
trusting young women). The DEA considers all these drugs to be so 
deadly, that even under a doctor's supervision they cannot be used safely.

In September 2015, our own bike-riding congressman and friend of 
cannabis Representative Earl Blumenauer received a letter from the US 
Justice Department, of which the DEA is a part, stating that the US 
Department of Health and Human Services had recently submitted a 
scientific evaluation and scheduling recommendation, which is a step 
when moving or removing a drug from the CSA. Don't get too excited, 
because two months later, the DEA chief called medical marijuana a 
"joke," and added that legalized cannabis would be "misguided and 
wrong and stupid." And if anyone knows misguided and wrong and 
stupid, it's the DEA.

There has been a number of unnamed "high-ranking sources" who have 
predicted that cannabis will be rescheduled to Schedule II on August 
1, or better yet, fully descheduled. Among these hopeful but wrong 
reports was one that ran in the Santa Monica Observer on June 18, 
which stated that on August 1, the DEA would reclassify cannabis as 
Schedule II, and thusly "essentially legalizing medicinal cannabis in 
all 50 states with a doctor's prescription."

Which is great news... if it worked that way.

A recent piece in Forbes makes the point that "because any 
cannabis-derived medicine would have to be approved by the FDA [US 
Food and Drug Administration] (based on the same kind of evidence the 
DEA has always demanded in response to rescheduling petitions) before 
a doctor could legally prescribe it."

What a reclassification to Schedule II would allow is better access 
to cannabis for researchers, who are hampered by the stranglehold the 
feds have on research, as the only cannabis available to researchers 
is grown at the University of Mississippi, and that particular crop 
is pretty much the dregs.

Another benefit would be to newspaper publishers, who currently face 
a felony charge and up to four years in prison if they "place in any 
newspaper, magazine, handbill, or other publications, any written 
advertisement knowing that it has the purpose of seeking or offering 
illegally to receive, buy or distribute a Schedule I controlled 
substance." (Number of Mercury staff members who would survive lockup 
for 48 hours: negative four.)

Let's not break out the cannabis-infused champagne yet, as we don't 
have know what's exactly going to happen with all this, and such a 
beverage is not yet a thing. (Yet.) Change is often slow, 
frustrating, and at times maddening. But it is coming, and someday we 
will look back in disbelief that it took so long to free a plant. 
Until then, take what you hear with a grain of salt-and a fat joint.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom