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scheduling

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director April 6, 2016

    personal_cultivationA recent memorandum from the US Drug Enforcement Administration to several United States Senators indicates that the agency is prepared to respond in the coming months to a five-year-old petition seeking to amend the plant’s status as a schedule I prohibited substance.

    Under the US Controlled Substances Act of 1970, the cannabis plant and its organic cannabinoids are classified as schedule I prohibited substances — the most restrictive category available under the law. As summarized by the DEA, “Schedule I drugs are the most dangerous drugs of all the drug schedules with potentially severe psychological or physical dependence.”

    Explicitly, substances in this category must meet three specific inclusion criteria: The substance must possess “a high potential for abuse”; it must have “no currently accepted medical use” in the United States; and the substance must lack “accepted safety for use … under medical supervision.” Substances that do not meet these criteria must, by law, be categorized in less restrictive federal schedules (schedule II through schedule V) and are legally regulated accordingly. (For example, schedule II substances like morphine or methadone are available by prescription.) Alcohol and tobacco, two substances that possess far greater dangers to health than does cannabis, are not subject to federal classification under the CSA.

    Federal law grants power to the US Attorney General to reclassify a controlled substance if the available scientific evidence no longer supports that drug’s classification. In practice, however, this power has been delegated to the DEA, with input from both FDA and the US Department of Health and Human Services. Federal law also allows third parties to petition these agencies to consider reclassifying controlled substances.

    The petition now before the DEA was filed in 2011 by then-governors Christine Gregoire of Washington and Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island. Other recent rescheduling petitions, such as a 2002 petition filed by a coalition of marijuana law reform and health advocacy organizations, have been rejected outright by the agency. In 1990, the DEA set aside the decision of its own administrative law judge, who had responded in 1988 to a petition effort initiated by NORML, after he called for reclassifying the plant.

    While it remains unknown at present time if the DEA will respond favorably to this current rescheduling effort, it has become apparent in recent years that reclassifying cannabis from schedule I to schedule II – the same category as cocaine – falls well short of the sort of federal reform necessary to reflect America’s emerging reefer reality. Specifically, reclassifying the pot plant from I to II (or even to schedule III) continues to misrepresent the plant’s safety relative to other controlled substances such as methamphetamine (schedule II), anabolic steroids (schedule III), or alcohol (unscheduled), and fails to provide states with the ability to fully regulate it free from federal interference.

    Further, the federal policies in place that make clinical trial work with cannabis more onerous than it is for other controlled substances — such as the requirement that all source material be purchased from NIDA’s University of Mississippi marijuana cultivation program — are regulatory requirements that are specific to cannabis, not to Schedule I drugs in general. Simply rescheduling cannabis from I to II does not necessarily change these regulations, at least in the short-term.

    In addition, the sort of gold-standard, large-scale, long-term Phase III safety and efficacy trials that are typically necessary prior to bringing therapeutic drugs to market are prohibitively expensive. As a result, trials of this kind are typically are funded by private pharmaceutical companies aspiring to bring a new product to market. In some cases, the federal government may assist in sharing these costs, such as was the case with the research and development of the synthetic THC pill Marinol (dronabinol). However, political reality dictates that neither entity is likely to pony up the tens of millions of dollars necessary to conduct such trials assessing the efficacy of herbal cannabis any time soon, if ever, regardless of the plant’s federal scheduling.

    This is not to say that rescheduling cannabis would not have any positive tangible effects. At a minimum, it would bring an end to the federal government’s longstanding intellectual dishonesty that marijuana ‘lacks accepted medical use.’ It would also likely permit banks and other financial institutions to work with state-compliant marijuana-related businesses, and permit employers in the cannabis industry to take tax deductions similar to those enjoyed by other businesses. Rescheduling would also likely bring some level of relief to federal employees subject to random workplace drug testing for off-the-job cannabis consumption.

    But ultimately, such a change would do little to significantly loosen federal prohibition or to make herbal cannabis readily accessible for clinical study. These goals can arguably only be accomplished by federally decsheduling cannabis in a manner similar to alcohol and tobacco, such as is proposed by US Senate Bill 2237, The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act. Doing so will finally provide states the power to establish their own marijuana policies free from federal intrusion.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director March 15, 2016

    legalization_pollFifty-two percent of registered voters support legalizing marijuana “for recreational use,” according to national tracking poll data compiled by Morning Consult — a Washington DC consulting firm. Forty-three percent of respondents polled said that they oppose legalization and five percent were undecided.

    Respondents between the ages of 18 to 29 (63 percent), Democrats (61 percent), and those aged 30 to 44 (60 percent) were most likely to support legalization. Republicans (37 percent) and those age 65 or older (36 percent) were least likely to be supportive.

    In response to separate polling questions, 68 percent of respondents said that they support legalizing marijuana “for medical use.” Fifty-nine percent endorse decriminalizing marijuana, defined as “no arrest, prison time, or criminal record for the first-time possession of a small amount,” and 83 percent of respondents said that cannabis did not belong classified as a schedule 1 controlled substance under federal law.

    The poll possesses a margin of error of +/- 2 percent.

    The Morning Consult polling data is similar to those of other recent national polls, such as those by reported by Gallup, CBS, and Pew, finding that a majority of Americans now support ending marijuana prohibition.

  • by Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director December 21, 2012

    Please find below a recent memo from Florida Attorney General’s office rejecting activist’s petition to reschedule marijuana for medical access. This is notable because Florida is a top five political bellwether state, with an aging population, NORML receives more requests from Florida residents than anywhere else in the country to reform local medical cannabis laws.

    Unfortunately, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office has rejected a petition from the Cannabis Action Network to reschedule cannabis so that sick, dying and sense-threatened medical patients with a doctor’s recommendation can possess and use it legally. As often is the case at the state level, the Attorney General is deferring to federal laws and Congressional intent.

    PAM BONDI
    ATTORNEY GENERAL
    STATE OF FLORIDA
    OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL

    Administrative Law Bureau

    Edward A. Tellechea
    Chief Assistant Attorney General
    PL-01, The Capitol
    Tallahassee, FL 32399-1050
    Phone (850) 414-3300
    Fax (850) 922-6425

    December 12, 2012

    Jodi James
    Director, Cannabis Action Network
    Melbourne, FL

    Ms. James:

    Thank you for your petition wherein you request that the Attorney
    General temporarily reschedule cannabis. I have been asked to
    respond on the Attorney General’s behalf.

    Section 893.0355, Florida Statutes, delegates to the Attorney
    General the authority to temporarily reschedule controlled
    substances set forth in Section 893.03(1), Florida Statutes, by rule
    and addresses what factors shall be considered when making such a
    determination. The statute reads in part as follows:

    (3) In making the public interest determination, the Attorney
    General shall give great weight to the scheduling rules adopted by
    the United States Attorney General subsequent to such substances
    being listed in Schedules I, II, III, IV, and V hereof, to achieve
    the original legislative purpose of the Florida Comprehensive Drug
    Abuse Prevention and Control Act of maintaining uniformity between
    the laws of Florida and the laws of the United States with respect
    to controlled substances.

    The above quoted statutory language makes it very clear that when
    determining whether a controlled substance should be rescheduled the
    Attorney General must give great weight to the current drug
    scheduling under federal law. In addition, Florida law also strongly
    encourages uniformity in Florida and federal drug scheduling.

    The Attorney General does not believe that it is in the best
    interest of the public for her to use her authority to temporarily
    reschedule cannabis, particularly given the legislative preference
    for uniformity with federal drug laws and the fact that cannabis
    remains a Schedule I drug under federal law.

    Sincerely,

    Edward A. Tellechea
    Chief Assistant Attorney General

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director November 10, 2011

    The theme of the November issue of the academic online journal CATO Unbound is “If Not Now, When? The Slow Rise of Marijuana Reform.”

    I have the lead essay in the journal, which also features forthcoming contributions from NORML’s Executive Director Allen St. Pierre and other notable drug law reform advocates.

    Below is an excerpt from my commentary, entitled, “Cannabis Impact on Health Justifies Its Legalization, Not Its Criminal Prohibition.”


    CANNABIS’ IMPACT ON HEALTH JUSTIFIES ITS LEGALIZATION, NOT ITS CRIMINAL PROHIBITION

    via CATO Unbound

    In July 2011, the Obama Administration rebuffed an administrative petition filed by a coalition of public interest organizations, including NORML, which sought to reassess cannabis’ Schedule I status under federal law. Yet little if any scientific basis exists to justify the federal government’s present prohibitive stance, and there is ample scientific and empirical evidence to rebut it.

    … Ultimately, … none of the potential health risks associated with the adult, responsible use of cannabis in any objective way justify the substance’s present Schedule I prohibitive status or legitimize the use of state and federal force to restrict consumers from engaging in the plant’s production, distribution, or consumption. Nor do they justify the Obama Administration’s present heavy-handed attempts to interfere with the rule of law in states that have enacted policies that diverge from that of the federal government’s.

    The concerns raised by federal lawmakers and the present administration regarding the potential health implications of cannabis do not validate the drug’s continued criminalization. Just the opposite is true. There are numerous adverse health consequences associated with alcohol, tobacco, and prescription pharmaceuticals – all of which modern scientific inquiry has determined to be far more dangerous and costlier to society than cannabis – and it’s precisely because of these consequences that these products are legally regulated and their use is restricted to particular consumers and specific settings. Similarly, a pragmatic regulatory framework allowing for the limited legal use cannabis by adults would best mitigate the health risks associated with the drug’s use and abuse. At a minimum, this framework would require federal lawmakers to reschedule cannabis from its archaic and unscientific Schedule I prohibitive status. At best, such a scheme would demand that cannabis be ‘descheduled’ and removed the from the federal Controlled Substances Act altogether.

    You can read my entire essay here.

    Continue to check back often to the CATO Unbound website as several other essays on the topic, including a commentary by LEAP‘s Norm Stamper, will be added to the site and discussed in the coming days.