Does a Catch-22 Keep Marijuana Labeled a Dangerous Drug?
Category: Medical Marijuana | Posted on Thu, January, 24th 2013 by THCFinder
The federal government will continue to rank marijuana as one of the most dangerous drugs after an appeals court on Tuesday rejected an effort to change the classification.
The ruling keeps marijuana in the same pool as drugs like heroin and LSD, which the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) say have a "high potential for abuse" and "no currently accepted medical use."
The Los Angeles Times quoted one of the appeals court judge's about the decision:
Judge Harry Edwards, writing for the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, said the judges did not dispute that "marijuana could have some medical benefits." Instead, he said, they were not willing to overrule the DEA because they had not seen large "well-controlled studies" that proved the medical value of marijuana.
Marijuana's classification as a Schedule I drug -- the most serious designation -- means that there are more restrictions for conducting research into its potential medical benefits.
Proponents of medical and recreational marijuana say that the restrictions make it hard for researchers to perform the types of studies that would convince the DEA to move the drug into a less serious category. Tamar Todd, senior staff attorney for the Drug Policy Alliance, spoke to The Daily Chronic, a pro-cannabis website, about the hurdles:
"We're stuck in a Catch-22 – the DEA is saying that marijuana needs FDA approval to be removed from Schedule I, but at the same time they are obstructing that very research," she said. "While there is a plethora of scientific evidence establishing marijuana's safety and efficacy, the specific clinical trials necessary to gain FDA approval have long been obstructed by the federal government itself."
Rusty Payne, a spokesperson for the DEA, says that there are "many" ongoing studies looking into the medical value of marijuana, but said he could not specify the exact number.
In any case, studies need to be approved by the agency, something that activists like Todd think is a conflict of interest. "The scheduling is made within the context of a law enforcement agency and that law enforcement agency has an interest in keeping drugs illegal and maintaining the status quo," she said.
The DEA isn't the only body with the power to reclassify marijuana. Congress could also amend the Controlled Substances Act, which designated pot as one of the most dangerous drugs in 1970.
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