The Paradox At The Heart of Our Marijuana Laws
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The Paradox At The Heart of Our Marijuana Laws
Posted by CN Staff on April 26, 2016 at 11:08:40 PT
By Keith Humphreys
Source: Washington Post
Washington, D.C. -- As Congress and the Drug Enforcement Administration weigh whether marijuana should be rescheduled, public faith in the drug classification system continues to erode. Debate rages between those who emphasize the strangeness of marijuana being on the highly restrictive Schedule I alongside far more harmful drugs like heroin, and those who emphasize how strange it would be to put crude plant matter on a less restrictive schedule alongside well-specified FDA-approved medications.Both sides have a point, a paradox stemming from a design quirk of the 1970 Controlled Substances Act: The law takes pains to recognize that medically useful, FDA-approved drugs vary in harmfulness, but does not recognize that this is equally true of drugs with no approved medical use. By throwing all these diverse drugs into the same basket, federal law both baffles the public and makes it very difficult for researchers to evaluate whether tightly restricted drugs might have medical applications.
Schedules II – V of the Controlled Substance Act have a compelling logic. Some of the medications that the Food and Drug Administration approves for medical use carry risks, for example of addiction or overdose. In some cases, those risks are real but minor (e.g., cough syrup) whereas for others they are significant (e.g., oxycodone and cocaine). Reasonably enough, the law imposes more controls on the riskier drugs than the less risky ones. Within Schedules II – V, the lower the schedule the greater the controls; prescriptions for drugs in Schedule II cannot be renewed, for example, whereas those for drugs in Schedules III – V can be.So far, so commonsensical. But Schedule I is different: It lumps together every controlled substance that has no approved medical use, regardless of dangerousness. Distinctions between the degree of risk were ignored by the crafters of the scheduling system because they assumed that if were no medically approved uses, there was no reason to make fine regulatory judgments concerning who is allowed to manufacture, prescribe and research a drug and who is not. Marijuana was thus lumped together with all other drugs that are not approved for medical use, including ones like heroin, which has a power to induce lethal overdose that marijuana simply doesn’t possess.This understandably strikes many observers as odd. Yet it would be equally odd under the terms of the Controlled Substances Act to place marijuana on Schedules II – V. Particular components of the marijuana plant provided in particular doses can be FDA-approved and scheduled. Indeed they already have been, with synthetic THC (Marinol) being the best-known example — used to treat appetite loss and chemotherapy-induced nausea. But the FDA process can’t easily evaluate a request to approve a plant that contains dozens of chemicals in widely varying amounts and comes in a range of forms, from joints of 5 percent to 20 percent THC to “dabs” of 50 percent to 70 percent. In fact, the FDA has approved very few “botanical” products of any kind, and has done so only recently. While one could accuse the FDA of being biased against herbal medicine, it does not single out the cannabis plant in this regard.To fix the cannabis paradox, Congress could of course ignore the logic of its own law and move marijuana to another schedule. Failures in logic are nothing new in Washington, and a major one is already built into the CSA: Alcohol, a drug with clear potential to destroy lives, isn’t on any schedule at all.Or, Congress could use marijuana as an opportunity to rectify the CSA’s major design flaw: Drugs are scheduled based on their currently accepted medical use. There is no special place for drugs that are thought to have potential for medical use, but which require more clinical trials or other research before that potential can be confirmed. Schedule I could be broken up, allowing less dangerous drugs with high medical research potential to be designated Schedule I-Research. In regulatory processes, the subset of drugs on Schedule I-R could be treated like lower schedule drugs for research purposes, making it easier to obtain the drug, speeding up study approval times, and reducing the need for research site inspections and other bureaucratic hurdles. This would make it much it easier to assess whether these drugs or their sub-components could eventually be moved to a less restrictive schedule.Despite the current gridlock in Washington, the concept of creating a Schedule I-R drew bipartisan sponsorship when it was proposed last year. Such a reform would represent a more rational and research-friendly approach to scheduling controlled substances that would deservedly have more credibility with the American public.Keith Humphreys is a professor of psychiatry and director of Mental Health Policy at Stanford University, where he researches addiction and its treatment.Source: Washington Post (DC)Author: Keith HumphreysPublished: April 26, 2016Copyright: 2016 Washington Post CompanyContact: letters Website: URL:  -- Cannabis Archives 
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Comment #7 posted by Hope on May 06, 2016 at 09:24:45 PT
Runruff, you have an understanding
Of right and wrong. Prohibitionists seem to have some sort of abberation in their ability to discern between right and wrong. They think if the powers in government say something is wrong, then the government has to be right. Even that idea is wrong... way wrong...but, the people that roll that way lack discernment. Big time. 
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Comment #6 posted by runruff on April 30, 2016 at 09:38:18 PT
Laws and politics, politics and laws!
I go by my law, if it don't make sense, don't do it. If it hurts another or infringes on another's rights, don't do it.My law is simple, "Do on to others as you would have them do unto you". It is not called the Golden Rule for nothing!
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Comment #5 posted by John Tyler on April 29, 2016 at 06:11:19 PT
why prohibited?
It is a well-known fact, by now, that cannabis was prohibited not because it was dangerous, but due to narrow economic interest and wide racial prejudice. It is past time to put this aside and re legalize cannabis. 
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Comment #4 posted by Hope on April 28, 2016 at 16:28:36 PT
I agree.
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Comment #3 posted by observer on April 27, 2016 at 14:21:13 PT
Problem, Reaction, BOTEC - Hegelian Humphreys
This piece by BOTEC associate Keith Humphreys, is typical of their pretend "middle ground" and fake "third way" which is in reality attempting to put a kinder and gentler face on arrest, jail, prison and more statism in general. Humphreys a "professor of psychiatry and director of Mental Health Policy at Stanford University, where he researches addiction and its treatment" makes and has made his government paycheck espousing things which people in government (prohibitionists) want to hear, and this piece is no exception. Humphreys seeks to advance the proposition that current policy of jailing adults for what they put into their own bodies, is somehow reasonable and acceptable. Packing slave-prisons full of people for pot "crimes", he would like to frame the debate, is just plain sense, you see: "So far, so commonsensical." and "Reasonably enough"Hogwash. The idea that you, as an adult, do not own your own body is the problem here. If an adult does not own their own body, then "ownership" or "owns" can have no meaning. No amount of keeping a straight face when absurd bunk assuming otherwise is spouted can change that. And that is true, even if a government-school tenured professor, getting his government paycheck, at his government-accredited institution dresses and speaks impeccably, smoothly asserts the reasonableness and commonsensicality of those government guns for pot "crimes". (What, the "gun" bits laundered away, again?)Humphreys:
"To fix the cannabis paradox, 
"Paradox" ... I am reminded of what Mencken said. Plato said similar things."The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary." - H.L. MenckenA quick summary of Humphreys imaginary hobgoblins here - which are common to many government coercion-loving prohibitionists.* hobgoblin of cannabis harmfulness* hobgoblin that federal government must "do something" (where "do" here always means, "use guns") about cannabis* hobgoblin of FDA (political decisions dressed up as science) needing to "approve" something - so that politicians won't sic police on you for doing it* hobgoblins of bureaucratic run-around and arbitrary (jail-oriented) "categories" which somehow should indicate adults need be jailed for putting this or that into their own bodies.With the certainty which infallible and superior logic brings, Humphreys goes on to suggest that government guns (in his logical assessment, though guns aren't mentioned explicitly) should, logically - to be consistent you see, be applied to alcohol (again).
... Congress could of course ignore the logic of its own law and move marijuana to another schedule. Failures in logic are nothing new in Washington, and a major one is already built into the CSA: Alcohol, a drug with clear potential to destroy lives, isn’t on any schedule at all.
So there! And I think Kevin Sabet and Bill Bennett and Bob Dupont will all point out that alcohol prohibition was a raging success, and have the powerpoint talks which "prove" it. Humphreys:
"Schedules II – V of the Controlled Substance Act have a compelling logic."
Sure, but only in a weaselly, fallacious way. Argumentum ad baculum is indeed "compelling". When a bunch of men show up with slaughter weapons and threaten you with death, that sure is "compelling", all right. But only in an ad baculum (false) way. Only in the sense that a mugger is "compelling" when his gun is pressed to your temple. "Compelling", like that.
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Comment #2 posted by schmeff on April 27, 2016 at 10:28:28 PT
Schedule cannabis like tea.
Camellia species...a plant that contains dozens of chemicals in widely varying amounts and comes in a range of forms.
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Comment #1 posted by The GCW on April 26, 2016 at 20:41:11 PT
Schedule cannabis like alcohol. 
Colorado voted to regulate cannabis like alcohol. That has not entirely occurred... but...So schedule cannabis like alcohol. Put cannabis in the same category as beer, wine and whiskey. -Even though it is not as dangerous.Government must quit duping God's cannabis.
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