Pubdate: Thu, 25 Aug 2016
Source: Portland Mercury (OR)
Column: Cannabuzz
Copyright: 2016 The Portland Mercury
Author: Josh Jardine


A Plea for Descheduling Cannabis

NOT LONG AGO, I wrote about the slight, slim chance that the Drug 
Enforcement Administration (DEA) would reschedule cannabis from 
Schedule I to Schedule II [Cannabuzz, July 6]. You remember what 
Schedule I is-it's the list of drugs defined as having "no currently 
accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse." Along with 
cannabis, some of the other drugs listed as Schedule I are heroin, 
LSD, ecstasy, peyote, and Quaaludes. Not exactly respectable company.

Still, it wasn't a big shock on August 11 when the DEA opted not to 
change the scheduling of cannabis, despite the submission of a 
rescheduling petition from two governors, or the fact that half of 
the states in the US now have medical and/or adult-use recreational 
cannabis programs in place. (By the way, this isn't a new issue. 
There have been efforts to change the scheduling of cannabis since 
1972-nearly 45 years ago.)

As I hoped they might, the DEA did slightly loosen the restrictions 
on medical research, and they will begin to issue grow licenses to 
universities in addition to the program that's currently in place at 
the University of Mississippi, presently the only facility allowed to 
grow cannabis for research purposes. Bully to that, as the good ole U 
of Miss produces some Jah-awful cannabis.

Our own pro-cannabis congressman, US Representative Earl Blumenauer, 
weighed in, saying in part: "This decision is further evidence that 
the DEA doesn't get it. Keeping marijuana at Schedule I continues an 
outdated, failed approach-leaving patients and marijuana businesses 
trapped between state and federal laws."

The surreal stupidity of this decision is a challenge to process, 
although I have been trying. (My Ask a Pot Lawyer columnist colleague 
Vince Sliwoski has a slightly brighter outlook in his column this 
week.) Even taking into consideration the two reasons most government 
agencies make these types of decisions-an interest in maintaining 
money and power-that anyone would say with a straight face that 
cannabis is the equivalent of heroin is beyond the pale.

I have extensive experience with cannabis, and have seen the good it 
can do for people seeking both medical and recreational relief with 
its use. (Insert the "all recreational use is medical use" argument 
here if you like.) I've worked with children debilitated by chronic 
and frequent seizures who found near-miracle-like results from high 
CBD oils, and with geriatric patients who were able to soothe their 
pain, insomnia, and anxiety through the use of edibles and high-THC 
cannabis flower. Plus, it's really fun to smoke. Not sure if y'all knew that.

I also have extensive experience with heroin. In a game that played 
out as something like a scene from Wim Wenders Presents Sesame 
Street, I counted the number of people in my life, friends and 
family, who have had problems with heroin use, including fatal 
overdoses. Twelve.

Still-as Vince suggests in his column-if the DEA had moved cannabis 
to Schedule II, it wouldn't have been a huge victory, as that 
illustrious lineup includes Dilaudid (the drug that felled Prince) and meth.

Rescheduling also wouldn't have addressed the myriad issues that 
exist because cannabis is listed on any part of the Drug Schedule. 
"But the feds still list it as illegal!" is the start of many 
arguments as to why things like banking reform and taxation relief 
for cannabis business aren't currently possible.

Another cannabis lawyer, my friend Amy Margolis of Margolis Legal, 
writes on her blog that we need to stop worrying about rescheduling 
and start working on descheduling. As in, removing cannabis entirely 
from the DEA lineup. She writes, "I am [a] fan of even incremental 
change. I want the feds to recognize that there is medical value in 
cannabis. Sometimes I am thankful for even the [tiniest] change that 
adds legitimacy and validation to the cultivation and use of 
cannabis. But, there is no way that I think cannabis should be a 
Schedule II controlled substance either."

It's beyond discouraging, even absurd, that this is where we're at 
with cannabis and the federal government. But the Wall of 
Stupidity-the one that keeps those of us who work with cannabis 
relegated to the fringes-is beginning to show some cracks. People 
aren't buying the established line on this any longer, and millions 
of our fellow citizens now have access, and are benefiting, from 
state-legalized cannabis use. So, no more talk about rescheduling. 
 From this point on, we demand descheduling.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom