Pubdate: Tue, 16 Aug 2016
Source: San Francisco Chronicle (CA)
Copyright: 2016 Hearst Communications Inc.


It's an outbreak of reefer madness, meaning the disconnect between 
federal drug czars and 25 states that allow marijuana for medical or 
recreational use. The latest instance is the Drug Enforcement 
Administration's decision to keep cannabis on the high shelf of 
dangerous drugs.

There's a crumb of sanity in the outcome, with the DEA allowing more 
research into marijuana, but the overall result is extra confusion 
over national drug policy.

In the short run, states will still operate under their own pot 
rules, a live-and-let-live approach that the U.S. Justice Department 
accepted in 2013 after going back and forth on cracking down. For 
California, that means a loose system that makes marijuana easily 
available and largely unregulated. Proposition 64 in November seeks 
to clarify this hazy world.

Though the Justice Department as a whole abides the situation here 
and in other states, its own DEA isn't on the same page. It's 
declaring that marijuana deserves to remain in the Schedule I 
category of heavy-gauge drugs, such as heroin and peyote, that are 
dangerous and have no medical purpose.

The drug agency is selling its decision on scientific grounds. Acting 
head Chuck Rosenberg said marijuana research to date is flimsy, which 
underscored the need for more studies before downgrading pot's 
dangers. Specifically, that means the agency will ease restrictions 
on growing and studying marijuana, which is now limited to a single 
facility at the University of Mississippi. But without more science, 
he won't move marijuana to a lower drug category.

Clearly, extra analysis is welcome, and the more accurate it is the 
better. But keeping marijuana in the top drug-danger category doesn't 
make sense when plenty of patients attest to its therapeutic value. 
Lowering it to the next level of Schedule II would acknowledge this 
view while the drug research proceeds.

This gulf between the DEA and most of the rest of the country breeds 
contempt and confusion. The agency's heavy-handed views undercut 
reasonable arguments to regulate marijuana use. The public, which 
polls suggest now generally favors legalization with sufficient 
controls, must wonder how Washington can be so divorced from the laws 
taking hold in half the country.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom