DEA Says “No” to Looser Federal Marijuana Restrictions

11 August 2016

The latest chapter of the long and complicated story of marijuana has concluded with advocates for looser federal restrictions on the losing end. The Obama administration has rejected pleas by Democrat governors to take a look at how marijuana offenses are treated under federal law. Pointing to the Food and Drug Administration’s longstanding claims that there are no currently accepted medical uses for marijuana treatment in the United States, Drug Enforcement Administration chief Chuck Rosenberg roundly denied the request for further examination. The decision has left many who have been impacted by low-level marijuana offenses feeling defeated.

The Debate Continues

The ruling also brings, front and center, a decades-long debate over whether or not marijuana’s continued criminalization is just or statistically warranted. Currently, marijuana is considered a Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substances Act, putting it alongside decidedly more dangerous drugs like heroin and other types of hallucinogens. This means that even the lowest-level offenders are subject to severe penalties for even possessing a drug with zero documented deaths. Meanwhile other drugs which kill thousands each year, like methamphetamine and prescription opioids are regulated under Schedule 2 of the federal code. Proponents of looser restrictions have been decrying this distinction for years, and will apparently continue to do so.

“No Medical Value” Claim is a Tough Pill to Swallow for Many

While marijuana is certainly not without its share of dangers, varieties with lower concentrations of THC have actually been found to yield numerous medical benefits. Rosenberg claims his rejection of the request was not a rejection of marijuana’s uses and potential when properly regulated; he merely said that determining the medical legitimacy of the drug is the purview of the FDA, and that he largely deferred to them in making his decision. The ruling is a bit of a surprise in an age when marijuana is becoming incrementally more accepted in medical and scientific research, and when the United States has a viable third-party candidate for President lobbying for its legalization.

The Cost of the Status Quo

All but eight states in the Union have legalized some measure of medical marijuana use. While the issue over total legalization is one that warrants considerably more discussion, many are arguing that such tight restrictions ruin the lives of those who are using a drug no more dangerous than what physicians are often quick to dispense on a daily basis. Federal regulators have, however, recently facilitated clinical examination of marijuana’s effectiveness in the treatment of epilepsy.