By Don Fitch
Steve Cohen, US Congressman from Tennessee, has called out Attorney General Eric Holder to end the ludicrous Schedule I legal status for cannabis. The Tennessee democrat (TN-09) is one of several US congresspersons working against continued marijuana prohibition.
Congressman Cohen is absolutely right when he speaks about the evils of Schedule I status, the most restrictive and punitive, for cannabis and hemp. These negatives include:
• Asset Forfeiture: Schedule I means marijuana “crimes” are among the most serious federal offenses, enabling draconian stealing of personal assets by the government.
• IRS 280E: This rule may cripple most cannabis businesses by disallowing common business deductions because of the illegality (especially Schedule I) of the product.
• Mandatory Minimums: Long prison terms for any “crime” involving cannabis are supported by the pernicious Schedule I tag.
• Medical Marijuana Research: Total control (and nearly total restriction) is granted to the DEA and NIDA, who cling to the “no medical use” definition to disallow medical research.
• Hemp: Imported seeds for the first Kentucky hemp planting were delayed at the border by the DEA last summer, requiring the intervention of Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell. To survive, the new American hemp industry needs cannabis rescheduling.
Representative Cohen points out that these and other loathsome Schedule I consequences could be rectified through simple actions by the president or attorney general. Although they both deny it with a troubling lie, either one could deliver cannabis from Schedule I oblivion to a more science-based schedule less determined by politics. Perhaps more than any other action the current administration could take, the rescheduling of cannabis is clearly needed, and the timing is exactly right.Yet with the clock winding down on this administration, particularly this attorney general, it looks like neither man will act. Loretta Lynch, Obama’s pick to replace Holder, has already indicated that she opposes ending pot prohibition.
Obama and Holder state (incorrectly) that they do not have the power to make this change; this is an obvious untruth when they allow the DEA itself to set schedules for drugs and to deny changes to cannabis scheduling. In 1986, the DEA changed the scheduling of Marinol, the synthetic THC pill, from Schedule I to Schedule II and then down to Schedule III in 1999. While the DEA was trying to scare the public with worries about stronger cannabis strains with 20+ percent THC, it down-scheduled 100 percent THC Marinol (not your father’s pot) to make it more medically available, thereby reducing momentum for medical marijuana. By all accounts, the synthetic pot pill causes stressful and difficult psychoactivity, reducing its medical usefulness.
Although rescheduling cannabis to other than Schedule I would undo the worst harms, it would still leave it in the undeserving supervision of the DEA and a host of other regulatory agencies. Cannabis should be removed from the schedules of the Controlled Substances Act altogether.
Such descheduling is also within the capability of the president or attorney general. It could instead be classified with and regulated like alcohol and cigarettes. Bizarrely, these two drugs are by far the most dangerous of all (1,200 daily deaths from cigarettes alone in the USA.) Cannabis kills zero Americans each day and has none of the biological, personal, and social toxicity of alcohol. Yet lumping cannabis in with these killers would ironically free this beneficial plant from the idiotic constraints of the Controlled Substances Act and liberate it forever from the gangrenous grasp of the DEA.
Congressman Cohen acted after Attorney General Eric Holder, speaking to the National Press Club, noted that there is “a legitimate debate to be had on both sides of that question on where marijuana should be in terms of scheduling.” Cohen questions that statement, wondering what arguments support continued Schedule I status and urging Eric Holder, “in your remaining time in office to take action, under existing federal law, to reclassify marijuana.”
At the same time as Congressman Steve Cohen’s actions, two other democratic legislators, Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Oregon, and Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colorado, have submitted bills tackling federal marijuana prohibition. More on these soon.
When do you think cannabis will be freed from Schedule I ?