The Controlled Substance Act of 1970 legally classified drugs based on their potential danger to users. The most dangerous of all known substances were labeled Schedule 1 drugs, which are defined as having potential for high abuse (highly addictive), no recognized medical benefit, and that there is a lack of safety concerning use of the drug.
Marijuana, now legal for medical use in 17 states and Washington DC, still remains a Schedule 1 drug alongside heroin and LSD. However, it is now obvious to everyone but the Feds that marijuana does not belong in the same category as heroin and should be rescheduled.
Because both Congress and the president ignore this issue like the plague, marijuana is unlikely to be rescheduled in the near future. Yet, that doesn't mean that it can't happen quickly as all it would take is a stroke of the president's pen with an executive order.
With three states voting this fall for full legalization of marijuana, setting up a potentially disastrous confrontation with the federal government, it's time for the Feds to simply reschedule marijuana to its proper classification.
The Case for Rescheduling Marijuana
Low Level of Addictiveness: The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders defines addiction as "the compulsive use of a substance despite ongoing negative consequences, which may lead to tolerance or withdrawal symptoms when the substance is stopped." By this definition, only 10% of marijuana users become addicted.
Less than 10 percent of marijuana users ever exhibit symptoms of dependence (as defined by the American Psychiatric Association's DSM-IV criteria). By comparison 15 percent of alcohol users, 17 percent of cocaine users, and a whopping 32 percent of cigarette smokers statistically exhibit symptoms of drug dependence. (Source)
Another definition of addiction used by doctors is whether a substance produces severe physical withdrawal symptoms when the user quits. In this regard, marijuana is absolutely not addictive.
In this view, the paradigm for addiction is heroin: the shaking, puking heroin junkie who can’t quit because the withdrawal sickness is impossible to bear. Because marijuana cessation is not linked with such severe symptoms, the drug isn’t seen as physically addictive. And considering that most people view physical addiction as uncontrollable, but psychological addiction as manageable with proper willpower, marijuana tends not to be regarded as addictive in general. (Source)
The government's own figures list alcohol and tobacco as more addictive than marijuana, and cocaine, too, which is classified as a less dangerous Schedule 2 drug. There is simply no way for the government to continue to defend the idea that marijuana is "highly addictive" and worth of Schedule 1 status.
Obvious Medical Benefits: Besides the fact that cannabis is one of the oldest known natural medicines on the planet, the "official" evidence continues to prove its medical benefits. Cannabis is known to relieve symptoms of chronic pain, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, epilepsy, and a host of other ailments, in addition to providing relief from general anxiety and the side effects of dangerous pharmaceuticals. Indeed, the U.S. government holds patents on these medical properties of marijuana.
US Patent 6630507 Cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants, held by Department of Health and Human Services of The United States of America:
Cannabinoids have been found to have antioxidant properties, unrelated to NMDA receptor antagonism. This new found property makes cannabinoids useful in the treatment and prophylaxis of wide variety of oxidation associated diseases, such as ischemic, age-related, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. The cannabinoids are found to have particular application as neuroprotectants, for example in limiting neurological damage following ischemic insults, such as stroke and trauma, or in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and HIV dementia.
Cannabis has even been proven by Harvard to reduce cancerous tumors. Again, this is fully acknowledged by the government on their own public cancer website and has resulted in other government-owned patents.
Finally, there are already synthetic pharmaceuticals like Marinol on the market to relieve many of the ailments previously mentioned. So, how can the DEA maintain that there are no recognized medical benefits?
The U.S. Court of Appeals is set to hear oral arguments in the case Americans for Safe Access v. Drug Enforcement Administration later this year. Americans for Safe Access is suing the DEA to force them to admit that there are indeed medical benefits and it appears that the DEA has virtually no legal defense of their position.
Lack of Safety: It's unclear what this portion of the Schedule 1 classification means, but let's assume it means the drug is very dangerous to the health of the user or the surrounding society. In 5000 years of recorded use, there have been NO deaths from marijuana use. In contrast, in the decade between 2000-2010 legal pharmaceutical drugs killed over 450,000 people. Even Aspirin and peanuts kill more people than marijuana. It's proven to be as safe as water for human consumption.
As for its impacts on society; a recent car insurance study proved that marijuana users are safer drivers than non-marijuana users. Marijuana users are also rarely aggressive towards others in contrast to alcohol users. So the real threats to society seems to be from keeping it illegal and fighting a war against it. Otherwise it's harmless to users and to society.
Conclusively, marijuana does not qualify for any of the three measures of a Schedule 1 drug. All the government and President Obama must do to prevent an escalated clash between state law and federal law is to be honest with themselves and the American people, and reschedule marijuana or remove it altogether from the controlled substances list. The longer they choose deny reality, the more foolish they begin to look. The time has come to get sensible about marijuana.