Pubdate: Fri, 12 Aug 2016
Source: Sacramento Bee (CA)
Copyright: 2016 The Sacramento Bee


Reading the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's report on 
marijuana, on how it should remain one of the nation's most dangerous 
drugs and has no medical value, we can't help but wonder what rock 
the agency's leaders have been living under. Or what they've been smoking.

Twenty-five states and the District of Columbia have legalized weed 
for medical use, starting with California way back in 1996. Three 
more states  Arkansas, Florida and North Dakota - will decide whether 
to follow suit this November.

Yet, according the DEA on Thursday, "there is no evidence that there 
is a consensus among qualified experts that marijuana is safe and 
effective for use in treating a specific, recognized disorder."

In a long-awaited report, the agency doubled down on years of 
illogical policy. Pot, it said, will remain as it has been since 1970 
a Schedule I drug, on par with heroin. It will not be, as many 
expected, bumped to even a Schedule II drug, like the deadly opioid fentanyl.

"This decision isn't based on danger," DEA chief Chuck Rosenberg told 
NPR. "This decision is based on whether marijuana, as determined by 
the FDA, is a safe and effective medicine, and it's not."

This is the same circular argument that the agency has been making 
for years, even as states, with approval from the U.S. Justice 
Department, have steadily moved toward decriminalizing it. The drug 
remains in a legal gray area, though. The DEA, for example, spent $18 
million last year destroying marijuana plants while people in three 
states were legally using it for fun.

What's scary is that this movement toward legalization, including in 
California, has been happening without the benefit of controlled 
clinical trials. Much like the Centers for Disease Control and 
Prevention and guns, the DEA has made it almost impossible to study marijuana.

In a wise reassessment, the DEA did agree Thursday to remove some of 
the obstacles. No longer will the University of Mississippi house the 
sole facility licensed to grow pot for research. Others will be able to apply.

But even with that, the DEA took a tone-deaf approach. Instead of 
recognizing the urgent need for policymakers to know how weed affects 
everything from driving to child care, the agency signaled that it 
will enact strict rules for getting a license and issue a precious few of them.

What's more, many of the licenses will go to big companies with deep 
pockets and lots of lobbyists, all looking to develop, patent and 
market particular strains as prescription drugs. Small growers, such 
as those in the Emerald Triangle who have been at this for 
generations, may find themselves left out of this Green Rush.

We needed clarity on marijuana. Instead, most of what the DEA gave us 
was just more smoke.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom