20 years ago today, an unelected bureaucrat extended the restrictive Schedule I status of cannabis. On December 30, 1989, DEA administrator Jack Lawn overlooked the evidence from every valid investigation of cannabis and decreed that it would remain on the DEA’s Schedule I, the most restricted status. Despite ample evidence for its medical value, the DEA left it in the only category declared without medical use.
In making his decision, the DEA administrator had the recent opinion of his own DEA law Judge Francis L. Young. Judge Young had investigated the scheduling of marijuana by the DEA. His extensive study reached remarkable conclusions:
- The evidence in this record clearly shows that marijuana has been accepted as capable of relieving the distress of great numbers of very ill people, and doing so with safety under medical supervision.
- Nearly all medicines have toxic, potentially lethal effects. But marijuana is not such a substance. There is no record in the extensive medical literature describing a proven, documented cannabis-induced fatality.
- Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man. By any measure of rational analysis marijuana can be safely used within a supervised routine of medical care.
- It would be unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious for DEA to continue to stand between those sufferers and the benefits of this substance in light of the evidence in this record.
Twenty years ago the DEA administrator acted in just such an unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious manner and refused to down-schedule marijuana, retaining total control of all medical research and quashing any industrial hemp applications. For this next 20 years, cannabis has retained its erroneous federal status as a dangerous drug without medical use.
Millions of Americans had their lives damaged, their property confiscated and their selves imprisoned by unjust laws based on this Schedule I falsehood. For the DEA as a bureaucracy, though, the ruse has been effective. The agency has grown cancerously as law-makers threw money at what they perceived a political asset, the war on drugs. Ten million marijuana arrests in those two decades fueled an enormous drug war industrial complex.
Cannabis remains Schedule I today. President Obama seems unwilling to lift a finger to change this great injustice. Indeed, Obama seems paralyzed in taking even the smallest steps for reform of this cruel and counterproductive policy. He has even failed to replace the current DEA administrator, leaving in place an authoritarian neo-con appointed by George Bush.
Either Barack Obama or Attorney General Eric Holder could begin to right this historic evil by ordering the down regulation of cannabis and all cannabinoids. A Schedule V rating would free cannabis from the DEA boot on its neck. So too, it would free the American people from criminalization and repression by drug war bureaucrats and allow medical cannabis research to flourish.
By the way, a second drug war evil took place on this day. On December 30, 1996, President Bill Clinton authorized a federal attack on recent gains by medical marijuana proponents, specifically California’s Proposition 215, voted in a month and a half earlier. Already overseer of a hugely expanded Justice Department with big jumps in marijuana arrests, prosecutions and jailings, Bill Clinton now sought to specifically override the choice of California voters and prepared an attack on American medical rights that culminated in one of the most egregious modern attacks on the American Freedom of Speech.
Specifically, Clinton and henchmen Drug Czar General Barry McCaffrey and representative Rahm Emanuel sought to deny the rights of physicians to speak of the possible utility of medical marijuana. Doctors were threatened with denial to pharmaceutical drugs if they counseled glaucoma victims about the eye pressure-lowering power of marijuana. They were told they might lose their right to practice medicine if they mentioned to the retching patients undergoing chemotherapy that some find nausea relief with cannabis.
Fortunately the courts saw the grievous unconstitutionality of such restrictions and ended this government thought control for doctors and their patients. Despite this setback, every government bureaucracy benefiting from the drug war has continued this attack on the medical rights of their fellow American citizens, rights about which medication they choose with their doctors.
Thanks to StopTheDrugWar.org ‘s Drug War Chronicle’s This Week in History for noting the dates of the above misdeeds.