The DEA Says Marijuana As Dangerous As Heroin

Refusing to Back Down

Advocates of cannabis legalization have been working for years to change how the federal government classifies marijuana. Currently, the government considers marijuana to be a “Schedule I” narcotic substance. In layman’s terms, this means that it considers cannabis to be without any medical value and with a high potential for abuse.

That position, according to a policy brief issued today by the Drug Enforcement Administration, is unlikely to change in the near future.

The agency has refused to reclassify cannabis, and will keep it classified as a “Schedule 1” drug. However, the DEA will allow an increase in the supply of marijuana available for medical research.

Out of Both Sides of Their Mouth

It seems contradictory to give the green light to researching medical cannabis on one hand, while refusing to grant marijuana any medical value on the other. Cannabis current classification flies in the face of current research which suggests immense medical and therapeutic potential for cannabis.

Of course, it’s well known that marijuana is significantly less addictive and dangerous than alcohol and many prescription drugs. But the DEA is so far refusing to back down. 

Hordes of prominent state and national organizations have recognized through reports, studies, and publications the medical benefits of cannabis, including National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine, the American Public Health Association, the American College of Physicians, the American Nurses Association, to name just a few.

Safer Than Alcohol

As far back as 1999, the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine issued a report commissioned by none less than the White House which found that in terms of addiction and abuse, marijuana was far less of a health risk.

The report acknowledged that some cannabis users do in fact develop dependencies, they are far less severe and less likely to do so than people who use nicotine and alcohol.

Keeping up the Fight

The DEA’s latest ruling isn’t stopping cannabis advocates from speaking out against the agency’s refusal to reclassify cannabis.

The DEA Says Marijuana As Dangerous As Heroin

AP Photo/David Zalubowski

Marijuana Policy Project spokesperson and Director of Communications Mason Tvert issued a statement today which blasted the DEA’s stance on cannabis. “The DEA’s refusal to remove marijuana from Schedule I is, quite frankly, mind-boggling. It is intellectually dishonest and completely indefensible.”

The Silver Lining

One of the positives to come out of the DEA’s announcement, however, has to do with the freeing up of a larger supply of medical-grade cannabis for research purposes.

Until now, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has had a virtual monopoly over the cultivation of cannabis for research uses. For many years, this has put up barriers to other groups interested in exploring the medical benefits of marijuana. And since the DEA and NIDA work closely together, their control of the research has potentially led to diluted findings that don’t contradict the exaggerated claims made by the DEA about marijuana’s harmfulness.

“Removing barriers to research is a step forward,” admitted Tvert, “but the decision does not go nearly far enough.”