Crack in Schedule I status for cannabis? AMA reconsiders.

Huge reductions of harm will be gained when cannabis is rescheduled down from the current draconian status, Schedule I. Legal and social harms inflicted upon users of marijuana by their government is by far the greatest source of harm associated with the plant substance.

  • Physically, to the user and socially, to the community, cannabis is far SAFER than alcohol. Unlike alcohol, its use is not associated with violent crime. Or any crime, aside from the “crime” of use of cannabis.
  • Legally, however, cannabis is a mine field of harm. Marijuana is deemed among the most dangerous of all substances, Schedule I, demanding draconian punishment, often years or decades of mandatory imprisonment.
  • Drug warriors in the USA, especially the DEA, have resisted all efforts to reschedule cannabis, as such as step would lessen the very need for the Drug Enforcement Administration. The agency has profited greatly and grown cancerously during the four decades of the war on drugs.

Any medical usefulness of cannabis belies the drug’s Schedule I status that specifically stipulates that the substance is of no medical use. All efforts to down schedule cannabis have been rebuffed, usually by including reference to the lack of support by the American Medical Association, the AMA.

History shows that the AMA protested the criminalization of cannabis by the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937. But congress drug warrior mentality was at work and the legislators wanted to hear nothing of cannabis’ medical utility, and the protestations of the AMA were dismissed.

For the next 72 years, the medical use of cannabis was forgotten by the AMA. Appeals to the group concerning increasing evidence of medical utility and the poor fit with Schedule I went unheeded.  Finally, in 2009, the AMA is changing its stance, and will argue against continued Schedule I status and to promote cannabinoid research.

This move, though long overdue, is of great importance. Prohibitionists seeking to maintain the most restrictive (and harmful) schedule will now find their position ad odds with the country’s major association of physicians.

Cannabis should really be moved out of the responsibility of the DEA altogether, as that agency has only lied and shown great self-interest in keeping cannabis illegal and preventing medical studies. If the drug remains scheduled, it should be Schedule V, the least restrictive. But even moving it to Schedule II would provide harm reduction by decoupling from the harshest enforcement and provide health promotion by opening the floodgates of medical research.