Ever since the classification of cannabis in 1970 as a Schedule I drug, grouping it alongside truly dangerous drugs like heroin, LSD and peyote, activists such as the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws have been working tirelessly to have it re-classified, with little success. Until now.
The Washington Post has reported that the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has sent a letter to lawmakers notifying them of a possible shift in how the DEA views cannabis:
“The DEA has received scientific and medical evaluations as well as a scheduling recommendation from [the Department of Health and Human Services] and that it hopes to release a determination on rescheduling in the first half of 2016.”
The DEA’s Schedule I claims that these drugs have the greatest potential for abuse and have no medicinal value. Possession is punishable by anywhere from 6 months to 7 years imprisonment and hefty fines, and often include mandatory minimum sentencing which cruelly removes a judges personal discretion from cases. Drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine rank one level lower, as Schedule II.
Despite the Federal categorization of cannabis, which creates legal obstacles for obtaining research funding, research studies examining the potential uses of medical cannabis have been taking place around the globe. For example, the Center of Medical Cannabis Research (CMCR) at the University of San Diego has received $8.7 million from the State of California for seven clinical trials, in order to realize the medical benefits of the plant and to discover healthy ways to ingest it. CMCR and other research organizations around the world have shown that cannabis has the potential capacity to treat autoimmune disorders such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and inflammatory bowel disease, as well as neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
“Every one of the studies showed a benefit…listing of marijuana as a Schedule I drug with no medical use is completely at odds with the existing science.” ~ Dr. Igor Grant, a neuropsychiatrist and director of CMCR (Source)
The support for cannabis reclassification does not stop there:
The American Academy of Pediatrics last year recommended that the DEA reclassify marijuana as a Schedule II drug to make it easier to facilitate clinical trial research of the drug in the hopes of finding benefits for children. The Epilepsy Foundation of America, a national nonprofit advocating on behalf of epilepsy patients, has also come out in favor of access to cannabis for seizure sufferers. (Source)
Furthermore, advocates insist that cannabis has significant medical value:
“Reclassifying cannabis will make scientific research easier and will send a strong signal that the U.S. government is finally ready to acknowledge that marijuana has medical value.” ~ Tom Angell, chairman of the advocacy group the Marijuana Majority (Source)
Much of the research of the cannabis plant has been focused on examining the effects that certain cannabinoid compounds found in cannabis have on human physiology, thus allowing research and medical organizations to make their way around the Schedule I categorization and receive Federal approval. Yet, the reality is that 23 states and the District of Columbia oppose the Federal schedule and deem the known medical benefits of cannabis as sufficient enough to make the plant legal for medicinal use. Public surveys also show overwhelming support for re-considering the DEA’s perspective on cannabis.
“In fact, more than 6 in 10 Americans believe