If the medication involved were a typical blood pressure pill or arthritis treatment, this sort of pronouncement would come from the Food and Drug Administration, which is charged with determining whether medications are safe and effective. But the drug is cannabis, and the ruling came from the Drug Enforcement Agency.
...The DEA’s website contains plenty of pages explaining why marijuana is so bad. On one, it claims that marijuana is harmful because it “contains more than 400 chemicals, including most of the harmful substances found in tobacco smoke.” If harmful side effects disqualified pharmaceuticals from medical use, we would not see many of the warning-laden advertisements that populate prime-time network television.
On another page, the DEA says marijuana actually does have a medical use, but that the smoked form of the drug does not need to be legal because the active ingredient, THC, has already been isolated and replicated in the synthetic prescription drug Marinol. So, according to the DEA, marijuana needs to be kept away from people because it is harmful in the same ways as cigarettes – which are excluded from the Controlled Substances Act – but marijuana is also different because it is medically useful, while cigarettes are not.
Screwy logic, but that is not the DEA’s fault. It is not in the business of writing laws; it is in the business of enforcing them. Why ask cops to play doctor?