Gold Header Adreserve your ad here
While cannabis may be something that SKUNK readers feel very passionately about, it is still a federally restricted substance. Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia (Washington DC) have legal recreational cannabis, and thirty-eight states have legalized medical marijuana, sparking increased use and acceptance nationwide. It appears that the therapeutic herb might be poised for that acceptance to be extended to the federal government after nearly a century of prohibition.
The Health and Human Services under the Biden Administration recently recommended to the DEA that cannabis be downgraded from Schedule 1, the most restrictive designation under the Controlled Substances Act, to Schedule 3. Heroin and LSD are other Schedule 1 drugs. Currently, under its Schedule 1 designation, weed is listed as more dangerous and addictive than fentanyl, which is said to have killed at least 109,000 Americans last year.
The HHS’s recommendation comes after the Food and Drug Administration’s evaluation review process on cannabis. You might be wondering why the government needed to go through a complicated bureaucratic evaluation to come to a conclusion that any reasonable person would already embrace. It should be obvious to anyone with functioning brain cells that heroin and fentanyl pose a greater risk to the public than cannabis. But if prohibition has taught us anything, common sense is not a prominent feature of America’s failed War on Drugs.
The bad news is that it will be up to the DEA to review the HHS recommendation. But the good news is that historically, the Drug Enforcement Administration follows the guidance of the HHS. But will they do so with cannabis, the bane of their cultural existence?
The other good news is it is generally agreed that a schedule change for cannabis will have a limited impact on the state-legal weed market in the states that have allowed cannabis cultivation and adult sales. But a Schedule 3 designation is expected to change the landscape of cannabis-based pharmaceuticals, making it much easier for cannabis as medicine to gain traction. Under Schedule 3, doctors could legally prescribe cannabis in all 50 states (but only if the FDA approves cannabis as medicine). Just imagine the impact of that.
While any change in the federal scheduling of cannabis would be quite a big deal, longtime cannabis reform activists are in widespread agreement that it is a half measure; the good herb should be de-scheduled entirely.
Alcohol, tobacco, and even coffee are mood-altering substances that are addictive and, taken in excess, can result in considerable health consequences. Caffeine is consumed daily by millions of coffee fiends worldwide. However, a 16-year-old boy died after overdosing on soda, coffee, and an energy drink—all available over the counter to anyone of any age. Cannabis has never killed anyone from a toxic overdose, although many of us have greatly overindulged. I cannot say I have never hotboxed the 420 fog in a confined space after a day of over-imbibing or eaten too many brownies on an empty stomach. While I don’t recommend such excesses, the chances of such actions being lethal are essentially zilch.
I should mention that alcohol, tobacco, and coffee are not on any federal schedule and never have been (although alcohol did experience a period of prohibition in the last century).
Rescheduling cannabis will not necessarily result in emptying jails and prisons of the 40,000 Americans serving time for cannabis offenses, but it could set the grounds for a challenge to the federal criminality of cannabis. This is uncharted legal territory.
A complete removal of cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act Federal Schedule, however, would almost certainly result in most cannabis prisoners successfully challenging their imprisonment. This is one for the lawyers.
Still, the Biden Administration deserves credit for going further than any to hack away at the iron curtain of cannabis prohibition. But we should all be encouraging and even demanding more from the president. It is time to end cannabis prohibition by moving it from Schedule 1 to Schedule none.
Let our people go, and let our people grow. Let’s send a message to the rest of the world that America does stand for freedom and justice by taking the chains off one of the most therapeutic and benign wonders of the natural world. But even if all we get is a move to Schedule 3 for cannabis it will be the most significant federal cannabis reform since 1970, when the Controlled Substances Act was enacted. That should certainly justify a national celebratory sesh of historic proportions. It would also do great justice to the work and sacrifice of great American hero activists such as the late Jack Herer, Dennis Peron, and Brownie Mary, along with the tens of thousands of community activists who have remained in the shadows but would be just as deserving of our thanks and respect.