Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The (Actual) Truth about Schedule I

Thanks to programs such as Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.), the general public is mostly uneducated concerning the actual nature of cannabis. Elementary school children are subjected to a program that emphasizes the evils of marijuana and its harmful effects, rather than given a fair and balanced presentation of the facts; unfortunately, it leaves generations of children in the dark when it comes to cannabis and the truth about its effectiveness as a natural, superior, non-addictive medicine.

Unfortunately, as an illegal drug, marijuana is not taken seriously by the general public as a safe medicine and is instead viewed as a dangerous drug, mostly due to the medical community's stance on the substance. According to D.A.R.E.'s medical marijuana fact sheet, the American Academy of Ophthalmology, American Medical Association, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, and the Institute of Medicine, marijuana is not a safe or effective medicine, and it's smoked form is not considered a valid treatment for medical conditions. 

The federal government feels the same way: marijuana is considered a Schedule I controlled substance under the U.S. Controlled Substances Act (CSA), signed into law by President Nixon on October 27, 1970. Under the act, controlled substances are labeled I through V based on a rubric comprising three criteria: the potential for abuse, accepted medical uses, and the drug's ability to lead to physical or psychological dependence. Schedule I drugs are considered to have high potential for abuse, have no currently accepted medical value, and lead to bodily or mental dependence.

In a civil war on drugs, propaganda is a powerful tool, because it allows the detractors of cannabis to hide the truth without telling falsehoods. However, by classifying cannabis as a Schedule I substance, the government goes beyond mere propaganda and labels marijuana as a dangerous drug, despite the fact that the drug's attributes don't fit the criteria to be in Schedule I.

To begin with, the potential for abuse is questionable, as not all Schedule I substances are required to have the same potential for abuse as heroin or cocaine, as long as they fit the other two criteria for Schedule I. Marijuana has the potential for abuse just as any other drug does, but I believe that it is viewed negatively because it is used in a recreational as well as medicinal manner.While some may believe that illicit drug use for pleasure is irresponsible, they would do well to remember that alcohol is used for that very purpose, and was illegal once upon a time.

Secondly, marijuana is a valid medicine capable of treating multiple conditions, despite the debates about its effectiveness, for one simple reason: it's already in drug form, approved by the FDA. It's a drug called Marinol, a synthesized version of marijuana's main pyschoactive ingredient, 9-delta-tetrahydracannabinol (THC), and it's used to treat nausea in cancer patients and to help induce weight gain in AIDS patients. The main difference between Marinol and marijuana is that Marinol only contains THC, while marijuana contains over 60 cannabinoids, which act in harmony to produce the "high" that cannabis smokers are so familiar with. This begs the question as to why marijuana is illegal while synthetic THC can be marketed as a legal prescription drug, and offers us a picture of marijuana that society is not used to: an effective drug that can be extracted from a simple plant growing in soil.

Third, marijuana is not a physically addictive drug, despite what propaganda may claim. The Shafer Report, which was issued by Nixon's National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse, states that  "physical dependence has not been demonstrated in man or in animals." The report also stated that little to no psychological addiction developed as a result of cannabis use. Despite this information, and the fact that no THC overdose has ever been reported,  marijuana has remained a Schedule I substance ever since.

This all comes as no surprise, as the CSA is a deficient standard for rating drugs. It ignores the dangers of two of America's most widely used drugs, alcohol and tobacco, while classifying a safe drug such as marijuana in the highest class of restricted drugs despite the substance's failure to meet any of the three criteria for Schedule I, let alone all three.

Don't believe me? See for yourself. The CSA rates drugs both legal and illegal, but ignores the two main drugs of choice for Americans, despite the fact that both tobacco and alcohol have a high potential for abuse, no medical value, and a high rate of physical dependence. Am I saying that these substances should be classified as Schedule I and made illegal to consume or possess? Absolutely not. What I am saying is that two common substances we see every day would be considered Schedule I if they were subject to the CSA's rating, which should prove to us that just because cannabis is highly restricted, doesn't mean it is actually a dangerous substance.

If pot is going to remain in Schedule I, then by rights these two should join as well.

-John D.. McGaughey

1 comment:

  1. The last two parahraphs really blew me away! Wow, very eye-opening John. Everyone should read your enlightening blogs!