Why We Should Demand That Congress Reschedule Marijuana

  • by Keith Stroup, NORML Legal Counsel August 15, 2016

    austinLike most Americans who follow the debate over marijuana legalization in this country, I was disappointed that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration this week once again determined that marijuana has no medical use and left it in Schedule I of the federal Controlled Substances Act.

    Disappointed, but not surprised.

    NORML first petitioned the DEA to reschedule marijuana to a lower schedule back in 1973, and we have been involved in two subsequent attempts to accomplish the same result, without success. The DEA is a law enforcement agency. So they will continue to oppose any steps to loosen controls over marijuana until Congress forces them to change.

    A Brief History of Rescheduling Attempts.

    The initial petition NORML filed to reschedule marijuana in 1973 ended up being an endurance test. The agency refused to even acknowledge our petition or respond to it until we went to the court of appeals and forced them to respond. And this strategy of ignore and delay continued at every step, dragging the process out for 15 years until 1988, when DEA Chief Administrative Law Judge Francis Young, following days of testimony, finally ruled in our favor.

    The ruling concluded that “Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man. By any measure of rational analysis marijuana can be safely used within a supervised routine of medical care.”

    Judge Young continued: “It would be unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious for DEA to continue to stand between those sufferers and the benefits of this substance in light of the evidence in this record.”

    However, the DEA Administrator simply ignored the decision of his own hearing examiner and rejected our petition, claiming the hearing examiner had relied on anecdotal evidence. NORML again appealed that decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals, but the court allowed the Administrator’s decision to stand, saying he had acted within his discretion.

    And twice in the intervening decades NORML has been a party to subsequent attempts to require the DEA to reschedule marijuana; and both times, as they did in this most recent case, the DEA continued to insist that marijuana has no medical usefulness and should remain on Schedule I, along with heroin.

    So I hope readers will understand when I say, “Enough is enough! Time to ignore the DEA altogether and focus our efforts on Congress.”

    How Marijuana Ended Up on Schedule I in the First Place.

    When the federal Controlled Substances Act was being considered by Congress in 1970 — after the prior federal anti-marijuana act had been held unconstitutional — various members of Congress debated the question of where to place marijuana under the new act. A separate provision of that new law established The National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse (aka the Marijuana Commission), which was charged with the responsibility of determining the appropriate policy regarding marijuana and reporting back to Congress. A compromise was reached to temporarily place marijuana in Schedule I until the commission came back with their report.

    When the commission came back with its marijuana report in 1972, they recommended that minor marijuana offenses be decriminalized, which would have made it available (again) as a medicine. (Marijuana was on the U.S. Pharmacopeia from the mid-1850s until 1937, and it was available by prescription and widely prescribed for several conditions.)

    However, those recommendations were not accepted by then-Presdient Nixon or Congress, and marijuana was left in Schedule I, where it remains today.

    In fact, what Congress should really do, and what NORML has been arguing for some time, is to totally de-schedule marijuana by removing it from the Controlled Substances Act and treat it as we do alcohol and tobacco, thus providing states the power to establish their own marijuana regulatory policies free from federal interference.

    Bills Pending In Congress.

    There are currently several bills pending in Congress that, if adopted, would resolve this matter. HR 1774, the Compassionate Access Act, introduced by Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.) and Rep. Dana Rorhabacher (R-Calif.), would require that marijuana be rescheduled and would prohibit federal officials from interfering in state-compliant activities specific to the physician-authorized use or distribution of medical cannabis.

    And Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) recently introduced S.2237, the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2015, that would de-schedule cannabis from the CSA and treat it like alcohol and tobacco.

    Of course, neither of these bills have been scheduled for a hearing or given a vote — even in committee. But those conditions may change following the upcoming election in November, and we may well have the opportunity to move a rescheduling proposal forward in the next Congress.

    So instead of trying to convince the DEA that they should act responsibly and compassionately and lower marijuana to a more appropriate schedule under federal law, or remove it entirely, it is now time to put our efforts behind a push to convince the next Congress to solve this problem directly.


    This column originally appeared on ATTN.com.


    84 responses to “Why We Should Demand That Congress Reschedule Marijuana”

    1. Marty says:

      Let Congress vote to de-commission the useless DEA and put all of their idiot “agents” out of work!!

      • Derek says:

        I know several DEA agents and they are all great people who dont deserve to lose their jobs.

        • Mark Mitcham says:

          Don’t worry, I got a job for those poor, pitiful, out-of-work DEA assholes: washing dishes!

          …If they can handle it, that is! First of all, there’s real work involved — DEA agents don’t actually contribute to society by working, they’re fucking parasites.

          Secondly, they’re going to have to be civilized in dealing with coworkers and customers — no terrorizing people with automatic weapons! You don’t get whatever you want by pointing guns at people, you will be fired (again.)

          But if they are capable of disarming and becoming peaceful civilians, I got a job for them in the service industry: dishwashing and janitorial!

        • Julian says:

          I know some DEA agents as well including an informant who I count among one of my close friends. The same catch 22 that we speak of written into the Controlled Substances Act that requires that NIDA and the DEA deny the medical efficacy of marijuana inherently creates a Catch 22 for the agency to operate within any human community anywhere with integrity.
          What I hope we can agree on is that ending marijuana prohibition… Or that of any illegally traded commodity… can be replaced with sensible regulations and policies… so that we can RESTORE integrity to our law enforcement.
          Any DEA agent I know isn’t going to cry for their jobs after marijuana prohibition. The evil ones already built their homes by the lake, and they will continue to capitalize on whatever drug is still prohibited or their informants can milk out of the local “dealer,” (but they may have some retribution coming when the hush money dries up… Live by the sword, die by the sword…) The smart ones will go work as consultants for the new marijuana industry (if they havnt already) while the less affluent, rather dull knives shall we say, may have to seek unemployment, (but we knew that was gonna happen anyway… “Don’t get high on your own supply?”)
          What interests me is watching the DOJ informant cartels fall down as the hush money runs out from Illegal marijuana sales. No illegal marijuana money? No judges, immigration officers or even Congressman to purchase.

        • Julian says:

          There’s lots of honest ways to make money and make our communities safer, Derek. Heck, maybe the DEA can merge into Customs, join Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and go after real criminals like pharmaceutical companies trying to import sudafed from China into the port of Miami?
          The DEA on the top live a fast paced life, joined at the hip with the Colombian cartels, (literally). It’s really hard to go against your own gut feelings in a high adrenaline drug war when you feel your team is right and no one told you the truth about prohibition.

          Informants don’t lead the glamorous lives we see in Hollywood films like The Departed. They get Russian Roulette played to their head on a regular basis. They work nights, cant keep a marriage together to save their life, and in the case of my friend, are often foreign nationals who have been extorted into service by getting busted for possession and having their passports taken away and replaced with what’s called a “J” visa, meaning “You stay in this country as long as you do what we say.” And the state department doesn’t even know you exist. The irony is if you’re an informant and you kill someone? The penal code protects you and calls it “extortion.” Isn’t that extortion of the definition of “extortion?” ?
          Sometimes informants run an entire biker gang but theyll die in prison before admitting that (or FOR admitting that.. Talk about a Catch 22).

          Point is, a good man doesn’t hide from a good job. And in this economy if you can’t be satisfied and work for what you’ve got, youre not working hard enough.

        • Marty says:

          Oh, several. Exactly how many is several? Four, seven, twenty-seven? They can work at McD’s, Wendy’s or Burger King, I won’t discriminate.

        • Troy says:

          I know a lot more Pot Smokers who are great people and they don’t deserve to go to jail nor should I pay for them to be there.

          For Example:
          “The illegality of cannabis is outrageous, an impediment to full utilization of a drug which helps produce the serenity and insight, sensitivity and fellowship so desperately needed in this increasingly mad and dangerous world.”
          ? Dr. Carl Sagan

          • Anonymous says:

            I just moved to Ok from Ca. My medicine is now illegal! The almost 0 use of Percocet will not stand w/out medical cannabis. Lupus, Fibro, chronic pain is helped greatly w medical cannabis. The DEA not re classifying it is simply so big tobacco or others can take over production. They don’t want us taking health into our own hands.
            And, there is plenty of research, so they lie.

            • Anonymous says:

              I live in OK too,the county S of me in TX, is full of corruption, due to the “WAR ON DRUGS” This TX county acts like a Gestapo. It’s terrible what they are doing, there goal is to put everyone in prison. People, this “WAR ON DRUGS”, is a real war! I didn’t think our government could wage a war against us?!

      • fireweed says:

        yes talk about “wasteful government spending.” Funny how those that use this catch-phrase cut a wide berth around applying it to the DEA.

      • ron says:

        YES! The DEA only causes harm, has no intelligence in it. They represent an alien democratic force inner government.

        • Janis Reasnor says:

          It’s a real war against us! Can our government wage war on us? The DEA needs to be shut down. It is creating a break down of our families.

      • Thom says:

        I hope they fire all DEA agents. Maybe they can apply for a job scuba diving for Rooter-Rooter.

      • dave says:

        I agree 100% with u. If some people would los there jobs it would god for them. Go out and work like the average Joe, with not al those days paid off and benefits.

    2. w000t420 says:

      I like how this article is about the US Congress, yet the picture is of the Texas statehouse. 😛

      Despite their similar appearance, always remember that Texas’ is taller, and the goddess Liberty statue on top purposefully has her back turned to DC.

      • Julian says:

        Ha! Maybe Keith is saying start with citizen lobbying your state legislature and work your way up to federal?
        Or perhaps everyone should just donate to Texas NORML? (Seriously! We need the help! Legislative session starts in January but we gotta back Beto O’rourke and NORML endorsed candidates wherever we can!)

      • Alistair Cookie says:

        Texas actually belongs to Mexico and should be promptly returned to her.

        • Thom says:

          You silly person. Maybe we should give America back to the Indians or maybe England. Yankee.

        • w000t420 says:

          Ya know who would oppose a Mexican takeover of Texas the most? Tejanos. Especially those who escaped from Mexico to come live in Texas. They know exactly the ruin and misery they left behind, and at least from those I’ve spoken to, they’ll be damned if Mexico crosses the Rio to destroy all they’ve worked hard for.

        • Julian says:

          Sigh… I wasn’t going to enter this conversation… But Im waiting for my lunch to be served so…
          Allistair, now that you have been pummeled into perspective that Texas does not “belong to Mexico,” in any way more than Rome belongs to Greece, allow me to afford you one concession that relates to the drug war;
          Texas really doesn’t know where its borders start or end along many areas along the Rio Grande. Former Governor Bush had to abandon his wall project in the 90s because there exists no Federal easement along the Texas border, and since the 1970’s Mexico and the US have established a treaty that requires “no obstruction to the natural flow of the river,” so to build a wall means appropriating and condemning private property from American citizens= Lots of litigation.
          To make matters worse, the course of a river changes seasonally, shifting the border. In the town of Brownsville, Texas theres a golf course in a horseshoe of the river where authorities decided it was cheaper to build the wall across the short path, so this golf course sits literally in a no man’s land during an open drug war. The remarkable fact is the golfers don’t seem to give a $#!+ whose land it is or what people are fighting about or throwing over the wall as long as they’re playing golf! (In fact… Whats in that golf ball?! And if your golf ball gets inspected by ICE or the DEA, do you still have to play the course?)

          Even on the Red River border with Oklahoma the Department of the Interior is still trying to sort out a 100-year-old treaty dispute between Texas (energy lobby) and the Kiowa, Comanche, Apache and Choctaw Nations who have an old Supreme Court ruling that grants them “original access” to the lands where the original flow of the Red River is now thousands of acres into what some Texans believed was their private property.
          So some Texas land is going back to Mexico and the original Nations after all…

          • Julian says:

            Ha ha! “That golf ball took off over the wall like a shot of cocaine! …waitaminute… “

      • Anonymous says:

        Just like Tx.they also execute more people than any other state. Tx is backwards and mean!

        • Janis Reasnor says:

          I live in OK, 4 miles S of me and I’m in TX. The TX county is full of corruption! It’s terrible what they are doing. Their goal is to put people in prison. The Sheriff says, “everyone that complains on them, all go to prison”!!!! Such a convenient way to take care of complaints. Sexual favors,not going off bails, not going off warrants, taking the people’s drugs in a bust, cocaine is there preference and many, many more corrupt things. I could probably be killed, because of what I know!!! They act like a Gestapo!!!

    3. Julian says:

      Yes, Keith is absolutely correct.

      The heat is on between Tim Canova, who accepts no money from private prisons or Big Sugar taking only small donations like Bernie Sanders;


      Check out his recent debate. Donate to his campaign;

      And check the NORML Congressional Scorecard;


      This is how we will demand and purchase our country back, which Congress is holding ransom as long as the Controlled Substances Act continues to demand the DEA, HHS, NIDA and the FDA deny the medical efficacy of whole plant cannabis. We are fighting for more than legalization of marijuana, children with epilepsy, disproportionate incarceration, stopping the veteran suicide-opiate epidemic… We are fighting for our right to continue to coevolve with a panacea… A fundamental nutrient to our endocannabinoid systems… cannabis… that must never be patented or prohibited for the sustained health and security for all human beings.

      • fireweed says:

        Big Pharma has much to fear from this not-so-humble plant. There is emerging more and more evidence that good weed can prevent or even cure many of the most chronic and expensive diseases (arthritis, cancer, diabetes, heart disease). (There have been numerous articles posted about how pot smokers tend to have lower rates of cancer, better recovery from brain injury, have lower rates of glaucoma, tend to be smaller in the waist and more active, of how effective it is in alleviating pain and stimulating appetite) With Baby Boomers aging, many are finding marijuana to be the answer to their ailments and foregoing pharmaceuticals and procedures, big pharma stands to lose a lot of customers if pot goes legal nationwide, as it should. All the more that this becomes a human rights issue, that we be allowed to do what we think is best for our own health.

        • fireweed says:

          as an anecdotal side note, I was on 3 medications for depression and anxiety from 2011 to 2014. I quit all 3 spontaneously when I took a trip to Denver and had forgotten my medication. Of course I had to visit the dispensaries while I was there, and ended up not doing an emotional crash and burn as I had in the past when I tried to get off the meds. I have been medication free ever since.

          • Mark Mitcham says:

            Right on!
            That’s the kind of glorious news I love to hear. The very best to you. Now you’ve got your head above water! Keep paddling, homie!

          • J.Young says:

            I too took a trip to Colorado having struggled with COPD after taking a couple of very small hits of indica my breathing instantly got better and my so2’s went up into the high 90’s for the first time in 2. They can preach that it has no medical use all they want and I will call BS. for the rest of my life

          • Julian says:

            Congratulations Fireweed, on your freedom from “medication.” I just had to point this word out as we are in an incredible national debate and cultural vocabulary education right now about what the words “medication,” “medicine,” “biopharmaceutical,” “toxic,” “poisonous,” “recommendation,” “compound,” “molecule,” “synergy,” “presciptions,” or “herbal, botanical remedy,” really mean. Hell, many Americans are just beginning the learning curve between the words “legalization,” and “decriminalization.” But we have to start somewhere, and the shame is in choosing to remain uneducated.

            To add to this confusion we must distinguish the various definitions from our personal meaning to legalese and patenting which can be frustrating and distracting to our legalization efforts to say the least. I’ve been posting and commenting on this web site for years and no matter how many times I tell “Year of Action” that taking out the “smoked” part of the legal definition of cannabis sativa l. in the CSAct will not end prohibition but merely try and protect a biopharmaceutical quasi-prohibition, I wouldn’t be surprised to find him drilling the same argument here again.
            The other day, Texas Public Radio’s “The Source,” had former NIDA director Dr Robert DuPont on their show, repeating that “if the FDA doesn’t say it has a reproducible compound than it isn’t medicine.” How contrary and arrogant to any average, sane American. If you consume it and it makes you feel better, that’s “medicine” right?


            The link above has it all on audio.
            John Hudak, Senior Fellow in Governance at the Brookings Institute Stated at the very end that Congress was the only other solution, and that the president “can not” de or reschedule by executive order, which none of the callers mentioned. We have a long way to go.

    4. Don M says:

      It seems hopeless… The powers that be don’t give a damn about the welfare of the people. They seem only to care about their wealth and power. I think Trump is right when he says the system is rigged; that being one of the very few things I agree with him about.

      However, if NORML will lead the way and tell us what to do I will fall in line and do it. I think a lot of us have been demanding for years but our demands fall on deaf ears and produce nothing.

      What will it take, besides a boatload of money which I don’t have, to get these people to finally do the right thing???

      I just don’t know!

      • Mark Mitcham says:

        It’s Congress. We’re bringing it!

        House and Senate. That’s the target, that’s the focus. Use NORML CONGRESSIONAL SCORECARD (the Search feature above will get you there,) enter your own zipcode. Find your House Reps, get their NORML grades… then find your Senators, get their NORML grades…

        Then, if you haven’t registered to vote, do that…

        Then vote! Make sure to ONLY vote FOR Reps and Sens that get a “B” or better (that’s only a suggestion on how to vote), and vote AGAINST “D’s” and “F’s”!!!

        That’s how we’ll “clean house” in Congress!

        • Evening Bud says:


          Very good suggestion! I call mine now and then, and will be doing so once more after this Nov. election. (I’ll wait, to see if Arizona, Calif and/or Nevada legalize–and if so, I can use that argument when I’m calling or emailing my Reps or Sens here in NM).

      • Vic says:

        I’m not sure NORML even wants it legal. They will be out of business. Why is there nobody pushing for legalization. I belong to several web sites. Nobody is pushing candidates on there position. I find it more important than some of the other issues that Clinton and trump have created.

    5. Clayton G says:

      Is there anyway that all the people just file a class-action lawsuit against the government to Make them reschedule

      • Miles says:

        Not being educated in law I don’t know if that can be done and wouldn’t know how to start. But if everyone that has been harmed by prohibition was to be a part of it we just might be able to reign in the Federal Tyrants!

        I do believe that tyrants is a more correct way of describing many of our elected officials since they are clearly not servants of the people!

        • fireweed says:

          Whatever happened to the Million Marijuana March? I thought that was a great idea. I’m betting the numbers would be way up this time around.

      • Scott B says:

        I am wondering about this, too. I would certainly participate. Sounds like a good idea if it is possible.

      • fireweed says:

        I agree!

      • Julian says:

        Congress. Talk to and meet with your state Congressman in person. It really works if you work with them on marijuana policy.

        I think Keith clearly outlined how NORML has been working with the court system for more than 45 years now only to allow the DEA to ignore the ruling or to have a federal judge say “Congress doesnt have to be right.” I have a Republican state representative (Jason Isaac) and I went suit and tie to his office in support of any bill to help people like my nephew suffering from epilepsy. Not only did he go from mildly supporting Compassionate Use last year, now he is writing legislation for full decriminalization next year. We even discussed on the phone today strategy to raise THC but keep CBD higher so Governor Abbott will sign the bill by claiming “this bill will help treat epilepsy (and hopefully PTS, cancer, etc) but it won’t get you high.” Yes, we have to shame them on camera with veterans for marijuana on one side but offer our state legislators and governors a way to save face and pass better marijuana policy on the other. Its called compromise with hard work. There is no easy way out of prohibition; believe me, NORML tried it already.

    6. mexweed says:

      As Keith says, to achieve descheduling of cannabis it will be necessary to convince the next Congress– the pre-stage to that being to first convince voters to elect an appropriate Congress.
      However, also consider that it will suffice to convince everyone, every voter, every legislator that cannabis is an HERB, not a “drug”. This can be done by abandoning the emphasis on cannabis smoking (despite the Wikipedia article of that name which mercifully does have a photo of a long-drawtube Sebsi oneheater near the top) and instead emphasize educating every user and/or potential user about vaporization– which can be done with a device made from #40 screen and $1.29 worth of parts left lying in your garage by a previous god. (See wikiHow “Pipes from Everyday Objects” article.)
      Everything virtuously herbal is delivered by Vaping, whereas $moking is the gateway to drug effect, every Joint a drug cocktail of carbon monoxide, PAH’s and 4221 Combustion toxins, causing “$toner” symptoms blamed on the cannabis in casino-financed hate ads on teevee. A decisive well-advertised shift of endorsement now from $moking to Vaping would soon convince plenty of voters, however initially ignorant, that something important (and excitingly new and high tech) is underway to which attention must finally be paid in 201611.

    7. ANON says:

      Smoke out on the white house lawn, anyone?

    8. ANON says:

      Let’s set a date and gather outside the fence! Media circus of doobie smoke, anyone in?

    9. latchkeykid says:

      Does it go against the American constitution to have made this plant illegal in the first place?

      • Revolutionschild says:

        Since when have rights and peoples been placed before business interests in our country?

      • Gusbus420 says:

        It takes 2/3 rds majority to change the constitution of the us. Texas has its own constitution that supercedes the us constitution by treaty of annexation of1845. The Texas flag always flys six inches higher than the us flag. Marijuana was made legal in texas in 1989 by the death tax act possession of tax stamps only prevent prosecution. 100 dollars a stamp for each ounce see the sept or Oct issue of D magazine published in Dallas TX 1996