The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has rejected an effort to remove cannabis from the federal government’s highest level of controlled substances:
The Obama administration has denied a bid by two Democratic governors to reconsider how it treats marijuana under federal drug control laws, keeping the drug for now, at least, in the most restrictive category for U.S. law enforcement purposes.
Drug Enforcement Administration chief Chuck Rosenberg says the decision is rooted in science. Rosenberg gave “enormous weight” to conclusions by the Food and Drug Administration that marijuana has “no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States” and by some measures, it remains highly vulnerable to abuse as the most commonly used illicit drug across the nation.
“This decision isn’t based on danger. This decision is based on whether marijuana, as determined by the FDA, is a safe and effective medicine,” he said, “and it’s not.”
Legalization advocates and allies have escalated calls in recent months to end or amend the federal prohibition on cannabis and provide more access to research. The DEA’s promise to ease restrictions on medical cannabis research is long overdue. Patients who have suffered for far too long deserve nothing less than the best and latest science on medicinal cannabis.
The DEA’s refusal to even reschedule cannabis means the biggest roadblock to real reform will remain in place as President Obama prepares to leave office. It also directly contradicts doctors in states across America who prescribe cannabis to treat a variety of conditions every day. Research in the Journal of the American Medical Association and elsewhere has also shown that states providing access to medical cannabis are seeing significant reductions in opioid overdoses.
The White House’s recent decision to meet with cannabis legalization advocates was seen as a promising sign that this administration sought to achieve a legacy of meaningful cannabis policy reform. The protests and pressure that led to these meetings will continue in the wake of the DEA’s decision.
The DEA’s denial means the next president will likely be the one to set the course for federal cannabis policy as the states continue to lead the way. A growing majority of Americans are calling for serious changes in our nation’s drug policy as part of a broader call for criminal justice reform. The fact remains that cannabis will remain one of the easiest excuses for harassment and arrest by police.
A new investigation reveals that the DEA itself has also been secretly screening travelers and seizing their assets without due process. These revelations come on the heels of widespread criticism of police misuse of the federal government’s asset forfeiture program to take property from citizens beyond the bounds of our legal system.
Although both major party presidential candidates have said they support medical marijuana, neither has explicitly called for ending the federal ban. Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein and the Libertarian Party’s candidate Gary Johnson have both called for removing cannabis entirely from the federal government’s list of controlled substances. Stein renewed her call to release nonviolent drug offenders from prison as she accepted the Green Party’s nomination for President on August 6.
Although several states and the District of Columbia have shown considerable leadership on cannabis policy reform, their progress will be limited so long as the federal ban remains. 420 USA will continue to conduct voter education at the federal, state and local level through Election 2016 and beyond.
We are calling on candidates to not only support an end to prohibition but achieve restorative justice for those who have been harmed by these policies. Nonviolent offenders should be released from confinement and their records should be wiped clean. Provisions such as home cultivation can democratize access to much-needed medical care. We call on all candidates to reject the pharmaceutical, alcohol and prison industry profiteers who bankroll many of their campaigns. There are too many Americans who simply cannot afford to wait for someone else to get the job done.
Zack Pesavento is the President of 420 USA