Pubdate: Sun, 14 Aug 2016
Source: San Francisco Chronicle (CA)
Copyright: 2016 Hearst Communications Inc.
Author: Debra J. Saunders


For the first time since 1988, both major parties' nominees - 
Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump - say that they 
have never smoked or experimented with marijuana (without inhaling).

President Obama has been open about having used marijuana and other 
drugs in his youth, yet his administration has taken insufficient 
steps to inject some sanity into the federal government's approach to 
marijuana policy. In 2008, the Obama campaign talked about keeping 
federal prosecutors from going after medical marijuana dispensaries 
in states that have legalized medical use such as California. To the 
contrary, in his first term especially, Obama's Department of Justice 
was merciless on medical marijuana providers, as well as users. If 
you hoped for big change, get over it. Wednesday, the Drug 
Enforcement Administration announced it would not change marijuana's 
classification from the Schedule I drug status it has held since 1970.

Drug Enforcement Administration acting head Chuck Rosenberg explained 
in a letter that the administration will expand research into 
marijuana's medicinal benefits, but marijuana will remain a Schedule 
I drug because it "has no currently accepted medical use in 
treatment" in the United States, is not safe for use under medical 
supervision and has a high abuse potential.

Rosenberg understands it makes little sense to many Americans that 
marijuana should share the same schedule as heroin. (And, I would 
add, there have been no known human lethal overdoses from marijuana. 
The harm from marijuana is less dramatic, but real; chronic usage 
among teens and young adults can reduce the chances that they will 
marry, have children or graduate from college.) "It is best not to 
think of drug scheduling as an escalating 'danger' scale," Rosenberg 
wrote, and better to focus on medical and scientific evidence.

Here's the problem: There is no evidence that the DEA recognizes. For 
decades, the government effectively prohibited large-scale studies of 
marijuana's medicinal properties. That hasn't stopped Americans from 
finding out for themselves. "Talk to some patients," countered 
Marijuana Majority founder Tom Angell. "My mom has MS. It has medical 
value, believe me."

Californians legalized medical marijuana in 1996. Since then, many of 
us have seen friends with cancer overcome nausea and diminished 
appetite because they had access to marijuana. Acquaintances credit 
marijuana with controlling their epileptic seizures. I've heard from 
many medical marijuana users who believe weed enabled them to use 
fewer opioids and other potentially lethal pain medications. It's 
amazing the DEA can argue that marijuana is not safe under medical 
supervision when there have been no marijuana lethal overdoses, but 
opioid overdoses are the leading cause of accidental deaths in America.

Three years ago, CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta reported on marijuana's 
efficacy in controlling neuropathic pain for some patients and 
helping children who suffered from constant seizures. If Washington 
politicians truly cared about helping people in need, then the 
Democrat in the White House and the Republicans in Congress would 
have enacted legislation like the Compassionate Access, Research 
Expansion and Respect States (CARERS) Act right then and there.

In saying he has to follow the legal criteria for Schedule I, 
Rosenberg is ignoring the gulf between legal requirements and 
reality. He says there is no currently accepted medical use in 
treatment, yet the government has barely researched medical use. 
Nobody believes what the DEA says, said Angell.

I don't think prohibition works, and I expect to vote for the 
California ballot measure to legalize recreational adult use in 
November. Still, I readily acknowledge that people of goodwill can 
stand on either side of this issue.

When it comes to medical use, however, the federal government should 
get out of the way and let people decide what works for them and the 
people they love. And really, how can drug warriors who want to make 
it harder to prescribe opioids also want to make pain-alleviating 
medical marijuana off-limits? There is only one reason to cling to 
the status quo - willful institutional blindness. The worst part is, 
Obama knows better.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom