Pubdate: Thu, 25 Aug 2016
Source: Portland Mercury (OR)
Column: Ask a Pot Lawyer
Copyright: 2016 The Portland Mercury
Author: Vince Sliwoski


No Rescheduling Cannabis, But Plenty of Other Activity

WHAT'S WITH all the federal weed law action? My head is spinning!

MINE, TOO. Last week, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) 
announced it would not change its dismal tune on cannabis, and that 
weed would remain a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances 
Act (CSA). Then, the Obama administration announced it would ease 
barriers on marijuana research, despite the Schedule I restriction. 
Then, a bunch of federal attorneys general got pwned in the Ninth 
Circuit Court of Appeals regarding their prosecution of medical 
marijuana businesses, which is a pretty big deal.

Let's start with cannabis scheduling, which my colleague Josh Jardine 
also talks about in his Cannabuzz column this week. A move to 
Schedule II would have accomplished little, in my opinion. Weed would 
still be a controlled substance, just less officially dangerous than 
before. Progressive states like Oregon would still run adventurous 
programs contrary to federal prohibition. Also, Schedule II contains 
truly bad drugs like methamphetamine and cocaine. Pot does not belong 
in that company any more than it does in the even more restrictive 
Schedule I. If this situation seems strange, please remember the DEA 
are neither doctors nor scientists. Strange things happen when law 
enforcement has final say on a medical issue.

Many people worried about a Schedule II designation opening the gates 
for Big Pharma. Actually, the Obama "research" announcement may do 
exactly that. For a long time, federally approved weed was grown only 
at the University of Mississippi. Scientists complained that weed 
took years to obtain, or was simply unobtainable. Now, weed will be 
grown on university campuses nationwide (and not just in dorm rooms). 
Because many schools partner with private companies on drug research, 
and because the very few documented double-blind weed studies to date 
have been promising, I expect some serious investment into cannabis 
research. Guess who has lots of money? Big Pharma.

On the other hand, state attorneys general have no money for most of 
their weed initiatives. Specifically, they have no dollars and no 
cents when it comes to federal CSA enforcement as to medical 
marijuana in Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, 
Nevada, Washington, and, of course, Oregon. That is what the Ninth 
Circuit Court of Appeals decided last week, to industry applause. The 
rationale is that Congress has restricted funds for prosecution of 
medical marijuana program actors. So, any attorney general who 
prosecutes these actors will get sued and probably lose. Could they 
still prosecute recreational program actors? Unfortunately, the 
answer is probably yes. And could Congress change its mind regarding 
medical enforcement dollars? That's also a yes.

In all, it takes some serious hustle to keep up with the many changes 
in federal pot law and policy. Most people I work with are good at 
keeping their heads down and ignoring the federal noise, paying 
attention only to the practical stuff, like tax rules. I think this 
is the right approach.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom