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The DEA Is Ready For Pharmaceutical Pot — Are You?

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director February 23, 2011

    Recently on the NORML blog and in NORML’s weekly media release we informed you of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administrations’ intentions to reclassify plant-derived THC from a schedule I to schedule III controlled substance under the federal Controlled Substances Act.

    Today on the website Alternet.org I write about the forces motivating this proposed change and what it means (and what doesn’t mean) for the medical cannabis consumer. I also analyze who stands to gain (and who stands to lose) from reclassification.

    You can read an excerpt of my story, “If the Feds Get Their Way, Big Pharma Could Sell Pot — But Your Dime Bag Would Still Send You to Jail,” below. Full text of the story appears here. Please feel free to share and comment.

    If the Feds Get Their Way, Big Pharma Could Sell Pot — But Your Dime Bag Would Still Send You to Jail

    via Alternet.org

    “[M]arijuana has no scientifically proven medical value.” So stated the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) on page six of a July 2010 agency white paper, entitled ‘DEA Position on Marijuana.’

    Yet only four months after the agency committed its ‘no medical pot’ stance to print, it announced its intent to allow for the regulation and marketing of pharmaceutical products containing plant-derived THC – the primary psychoactive ingredient in cannabis.

    But don’t for a second believe that the DEA has experienced a sudden change of heart regarding patients’ use of the marijuana plant – use that is now legal under state law in fifteen states and the District of Columbia (although recently approved laws in Arizona, New Jersey, and Washington, DC still await implementation). Despite growing public support for medical marijuana legalization, America’s top anti-drug agency remains resolute that these hundreds of thousands of medi-pot patients are no more than common criminals, and that their herbal remedy of choice is nothing more than the ‘Devil’s weed.’

    It’s not pressure from the public that’s motivating the agency to consider rescheduling an organic cannabinoid for the first time since the creation of the U.S. Controlled Substances Act of 1970. (Under this act, all prescription drugs are classified as schedule II, III, IV, or IV controlled substances, while all illicit substances are categorized as schedule I drugs.) And it’s not the recent publication of a series of FDA-approved ‘gold standard’ clinical trials affirming the plant’s safety and efficacy that’s prompting the agency into action. (The DEA has so far refused to acknowledge that these studies even exist.) Rather, the agency’s sudden call for regulatory change is inspired by far more politically influential forces. The DEA is responding to the demands of Big Pharma.

    100 Responses to “The DEA Is Ready For Pharmaceutical Pot — Are You?”

    1. Scanlon says:

      Screw you, Big Pharma. You’re the reason most municipal drinking water supplies in the U.S. are fluoridated, contributing to fatal bone cancer in children as well as causing other kinds of long-term bodily harm to all our poor people and homeless. Thank you, Big Pharma, may you wake up in the middle of every night hearing screams and cries of the hundreds of millions whose right to happiness you’ve precluded.

    2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Mouseclone, drnugz, Advocating Reality and others. Advocating Reality said: RT @quippdMarijuana: The DEA Is Ready For Pharmaceutical Pot — Are You? http://bit.ly/i5LPs8 […]

    3. Bill says:

      People may disagree with me on this, but doesn’t this count as a (small) victory?

      Rescheduling cannabis to Schedule III from Schedule I legitimizes it somewhat, even if the DEA is doing this for the wrong reasons. I’m not going to say that it’s cause for a huge celebration or anything, but I think most victories are made in baby steps. Although none of us get any direct benefit from this decision, and too many people are still being stuffed in jail for harmless ‘crimes,’ this is a baby step in the right direction.

      On that note, does this rescheduling have any material effect on prison sentences/fines/anything else for minor possession?

      [Paul Armentano responds: Please read the entire article. The DEA is not proposing to reschedule cannabis from schedule I to schedule III; they are proposing rescheduling FDA-approved pharmaceutical products that contain one natural compound in the cannabis plant. The plant will remain illegal. The THC extracts will also remain illegal — unless they are part of a FDA-approved product, such as the proposed products I cited in my article.]

    4. Jeremy says:

      This is a great peak behind the curtain in what is the maybe the greatest hypocritical tragedy of the last century. Also, lest we forget, the federal government’s patent on cannabinoids expires in 10 years. I assume that big pharma will need to take a license to sell these “new” THC applications.

    5. Bhonze says:

      This is what the Government has been waiting for; Once again Big Pharma will make billions off of a natural plant and they will give it all these side affects that it doesn’t have and no state will any longer be able to have “Medical Marijuana” any more and the DEA can go on putting non-violent offenders in prison. Our Government SUCK’S. Who can have respect for such panty waste???

    6. THIS IS AN ABSOLUTE DISGRACE TO THE AMERICAN PEOPLE!

      EVERY AMERICAN SHOULD DOWN RIGHT OBJECT TO THIS MADNESS.

      YOU WANT REEFER MADNESS??? WELL HERE IT IS!!!

      FOR NEARLY 70 YEARS THEY CONSISTENTLY LOCKED UP HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF OTHERWISE LAW ABIDING, TAX PAYING CITIZENS FOR SOMETHING THEY CLAIM HAS ” ABSOLUTELY NO MEDICINAL PROPERTIES”. NOW THEY WANT TO MAKE IT LEGAL FOR THE PHARMACEUTICAL COMPANIES TO SELL TO US AS MEDICIN??????!!!!!

      IF THIS ISN’T A PONZI SCHEME I DON’T KNOW WHAT IS!

      ITS TIME TO SHOW THESE ASSHOLES WHO THE BOSS IS!

      WE THE PEOPLE!

      STAND UP!

      WE OBJECT!!!!!!!!!!!

    7. Atlanta Toker says:

      Screw the DEA. What Im ready for is a 40 billion dollar reduction in spending wasted on the DEA.The DEA budget should be cut by no less than 75% once Marijuana is legalized. Time forthe DEA to stop helping their fellow lobbyist for the private prison systme in the United States. Both Private prisons (taxpayer savings)and the DEA (more txpayer savings) can be eliminated with the legalization of marijuana. Their services will no longer be needed. LIBERTY.

    8. EntRance says:

      Once again Big Pharma, like most of the corporate financial plutocrats that control this nation, bends government to its whim. With the exception of Sativex, which contains natural THC and CBD, most of these medications have been proven drastically inferior to the whole plant. Synthetic THC has not proven as effective as natural, and even natural THC extract is only a small part of the benefits of medical cannabis use.

      It is exceptionally telling that they attempt to place it in Schedule III, not Schedule II, meaning that even the FDA knows that the potential for harm is minimal and abuse is moderate at best. Schedule III is where many anti-anxiety, barbiturate, stimulant, and lowest-tier opioids are found, compared to Schedule II where stronger opioids/opiates are present and the restrictions are considerable (no refills, no phone-in prescriptions).

      While it goes without saying that we must continue to lobby for full legalization and implementation of medical programs, this could provide a small step forward in the field of drug screening. If THC and plant-derived cannabinoids become legal through prescription, then it will be no longer permissible to have random drug screening to catch users. I am a chronically ill patient in a state without medical cannabis and due to my opiate prescriptions, my pain management physician is required to run urine screenings on patients every few months, to ensure you’re not using other drugs. Thankfully my physician is aware of the medical benefits of cannabis and is willing to be understanding, but for the safety of his practice under audit I need to come up clean on the urine screening. The test used is a high-tier urinalysis and he informed me that even for a once-daily user, it would show up on the test for a month or more after cessation of use! These metabolites of THC are of course fat soluble and thus are excreted slowly. It is absolutely insane that one can be penalized with a positive result even though use hasn’t occurred for over a month! Can you imagine if breathalyzers or other alcohol usage screenings came up positive for such a long duration and legal rulings were accorded upon them?! Hopefully, be it synthetic or plant derived, a Schedule III THC prescription on the market would mean that it would not be appropriate to penalize or provide random checks for cannabis any longer, save for those actually proving intoxication behind the wheel of a vehicle of similar, which even expensive urinalysis cannot do as the metabolites clearly come up positive long after any psychoactive effects have ceased.

      Aside from that possible benefit, this is once again an illustration of corporations being able to play by different rules than the rest of society. I do not look forward to expensive pharmaceuticals with limited benefits being available while patients are denied cheap access to the superior substance itself.

    9. Nic says:

      A witch Doctor, I thought you said a rich doctor, In my dream, the drug cops, dea, will be hunted down like the Nazi Gestapo agents, and when they are Judicially Hung The Law will guide us all to a better world.

    10. Jeremy says:

      This is a great read! Thanks!

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