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Kleiman, the author of the article further down this page, was an advisor for Washington State's marijuana laws and is a professor of Public Policy at UCLA.
Mark Kleiman continues to insist that I am “talking through hat” on the subject of rescheduling marijuana, but the reason he gives for saying so has changed. At first he claimed I had exaggerated the impact of rescheduling, which was weird, since the post he was criticizing said nothing about the impact of rescheduling, focusing instead on the question of whether the Obama administration has the authority to reclassify marijuana without new legislation from Congress. As Kleiman conceded, the answer to that question is yes, although President Obama suggested otherwise in a CNN interview. In any case, Kleiman was clearly wrong to say that the “practical effect” of moving marijuana out of Schedule I would be “identically zero”—or, as he put it on Twitter, that “rescheduling does nothing.” He has since retreated from that position without acknowledging that he has ceded any ground. Now he says rescheduling marijuana would be “mostly pointless” and/or that its effects would be “ mostly symbolic.” These clams are more defensible, although advocates of rescheduling might nevertheless take issue with them (especially the first one).
...Which brings us to the letter that Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and 17 other members of Congress sent the president last week. Blumenauer et al. argue that marijuana does not meet the criteria for Schedule I and urge Obama to “instruct Attorney General Holder to delist or classify marijuana in a more appropriate way, at the very least eliminating it from Schedule I or II.” Kleiman says these legislators do not understand the law either, but it is not clear why he says that. “It’s not as simple as someone saying, ‘Gee, I’d like to reschedule cannabis this morning,’” Kleiman writes, since the CSA lays out a process to follow, including consultation with the Department of Health and Human Services. That is true, but I do not see where Blumenauer et al. claim otherwise. Although rescheduling would not happen instantly, even beginning the process could help advance the debate about marijuana prohibition by calling attention to the questionable distinctions drawn by our drug laws.
Kleiman emphasizes that the attorney general’s rescheduling power is “not arbitrary.” That’s true in the sense that his power is constrained by the statute in certain ways. For example, the CSA’s reference to treaty obligations seems to preclude removing marijuana from the schedules entirely. But as Alex Kreit notes, the CSA gives the attorney general (and therefore the DEA) a great deal of discretion in interpreting and applying the scheduling criteria, since it leaves key terms such as “potential for abuse” and “accepted medical use” undefined. The DEA has bent over backward to justify keeping marijuana on Schedule I, and nothing in the statute requires it to do that.
The current impasse is because of an entrenched bureaucracy that has views akin to creationists in its denial of reality. To wit:
The DEA says marijuana meets the second criterion—no currently accepted medical use—not because the drug is ineffective at treating symptoms such as nausea, pain, and muscle spasms (in fact, the Obama administration concedes the medical utility of cannabinoids) but because such uses have not gained wide enough acceptance within the medical community. Given the subjectivity of that judgment, it amounts to saying that marijuana has no accepted medical use because the DEA deems medical use of marijuana unaccceptable. The agency likewise does not accept that marijuana can be used safely, although it obviously can, as Obama conceded when he observed that alcohol is more dangerous.
The DEA clearly is bending over backward to keep marijuana on Schedule I, and nothing in the CSA requires it to do that. It could easily apply the CSA's criteria in a way that would make marijuana less restricted, and the decision not to do so is ultimately Obama's. He is the one who appointed the current DEA administrator, a hardline holdover from the Bush administration who is so committed to prohibitionist orthodoxy that she recoils in horror at the thought of a hemp flag flying over the Capitol and could not restrain herself from openly criticizing Obama, notionally her boss, for his scientifically uncontroversial statement about the relative hazards of marijuana and alcohol. He is the one who, despite his avowed commitment to sound science and his own statements to the contrary, allows the DEA to insist marijuana is so dangerous that it must be more tightly restricted than cocaine, morphine, oxycodone, and methamphetamine.
"It's very unfortunate that President Obama appears to want to pass the buck to Congress when it comes to marijuana laws," says Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority. "If the president truly believes what he says about marijuana, he has a moral imperative to make the law match up with his views and the views of the majority of the American people without delay. He should initiate the long overdue rescheduling of marijuana today."
Yet there is another way rescheduling could be accomplished - by directing the DEA to an interpretation of policy that implements rescheduling of marijuana to, ideally (if it's going to be scheduled at all) to Schedule V, or the least dangerous of substances within the Controlled Substances Act.
Alex Kreit, a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego who studies drug policy, notes that the CSA leaves undefined phrases on which scheduling hinges. The DEA therefore "has enjoyed incredibly broad discretion to interpret and define 'potential for abuse' and other scheduling criteria," Kreit writes on the Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform blog. Just as it could adopt a less demanding definition of "accepted medical use," the DEA could take a narrower view of "abuse," which it equates with any nonmedical use. By that standard, marijuana, by far the most popular illegal drug, does indeed have a high potential for abuse. But that judgment seems peculiar if abuse is defined as problematic use, in which case potential for abuse might be measured by the percentage of users who become addicted or suffer serious harm.
In truth, as Lester Grinspoon observes, marijuana does not fit any of the schedules very well. It is not the sort of medicine the FDA is used to approving. But it clearly can be used safely, as Obama conceded when he noted that it is less dangerous than alcohol. Back in 1988, when he urged the DEA to reschedule marijuana, Administrative Law Judge Francis Young called it "one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man." And while marijuana surely can be abused (what can't?), its potential for abuse seems lower than that of many pharmaceuticals, not to mention alcohol and tobacco, which the CSA specifically excludes from its schedules.
In light of these inconsistencies, could the DEA take marijuana off of the CSA's schedules altogether? Probably not. "I think it is very unlikely that the attorney general could remove marijuana from the schedules entirely," Kreit says. Although the CSA gives the attorney general the power to "remove a drug or other substance entirely from the schedules," it also says that "if control is required by United States obligations under international treaties, conventions, or protocols in effect on October 27, 1970, the Attorney General shall issue an order controlling such drug under the schedule he deems most appropriate."
This article notes Republicans are attacking Obama and Holder for "schizophrenic" actions related to marijuana, including Obama's claim that marijuana is no more dangerous than alcohol, and Holder's statement that states can work out their laws without federal interference as long as certain points of the law (export, association with illegal drug organizations, zoning laws, etc. are enforced.)
As a matter of law, Section 873 of the Controlled Substances Act orders the attorney general to "cooperate with local, State, tribal and Federal agencies concerning traffic in controlled substances and in suppressing the abuse of controlled substances." Most states have drug laws that track federal prohibitions. But the voters in Washington state and Colorado chose regulation over prohibition as a means of dealing with cannabis abuse; if the state regulatory systems succeed, there will be less drug abuse than if they fail.
A straightforward reading of the law would therefore seem to require the attorney general to cooperate with those state efforts rather than trying to disrupt them, if in his judgment doing so promotes the purposes of the law in controlling drug trafficking and drug abuse. It is Holder's critics who seem to be selective about which laws they want to pay attention to.
As a matter of fact, federal drug law enforcement is a relatively small part of the national drug enforcement effort; about 80 percent of the 500,000 drug offenders behind bars in the U.S. are in state prisons and local jails. The Drug Enforcement Administration has fewer than 5,000 agents worldwide; Colorado and Washington state between them have more than 22,000 state and local police.
The Justice Department could easily have shut down the licensed growers and sellers in Washington and Colorado, but it would simply not have had the capacity to control strictly illegal production in those states without the help of state and local police. Letting the reasonably regulated Colorado and Washington systems operate while going after participants in California's virtually unregulated "medical marijuana" business creates the right incentives for state officials and industry participants; if you don't want federal attention, keep things under control.
Posted by RainDog | Mon Feb 24, 2014, 12:31 PM (3 replies)
The Farm Bill included a provision for state-controlled hemp production for 10 states.
This link is a GREAT read about the way politics and patronage and power impact the legislative decisions of this nation.
Apropos to nothing...Kentucky got a big damn project financed (the Olmsted Dam) as part of the deal brokered by Republicans when they were threatening to shut down the govt. - and when their partial shut down took $24 billion out of the U.S. economy, and reduced projected fourth-quarter GDP growth from 3 percent to 2.4 percent.
McConnell is facing a challenge from both the Democrats and the teabaggers.
When President Obama signed the Farm Bill in Michigan on Friday afternoon, the "McConnell Hemp Provision" became the first Congressional action to roll back the prohibition on marijuana since World War II. That's right. Mitch McConnell might have accidentally taken the first step toward ending the Drug War.
How did Sen. McConnell become eponymous with language that permits pilot plots of the plant that until 2:45 eastern time on Friday were considered by the federal government to be indistinguishable from marijuana, a drug that remains classified by the Obama administration as Schedule I? It has left more than a few people scratching their heads.
The vacuum of democratic leadership on this issue (with the exception of Yarmuth) is what led to the opening that allowed McConnell to seize upon a popular issue that democrats had not claimed as their own. But the question remains for a national audience trying to make sense of Kentucky politics from the outside: If hemp is so popular, why are Kentucky democrats so afraid of it?
Hemp's original sin was to be born to a parent of the wrong party because James Comer, Kentucky's agricultural commissioner, is a republican. Last year, Comer shepherded a hemp bill through the Kentucky legislature by overcoming every obstacle thrown at him by the speaker of the general assembly, the governor, and the attorney general -- all democrats.
The McConnell Hemp Provision added to the existing bill included hemp growing for James Comer's Kentucky (and the other ten states) agricultural depts.
The magazine contacted the DEA to find out if farmers are going to be allowed to sell hemp they grow. The DEA referred the magazine to the DOJ.
Hemp contains less than 0.3% THC, so, as far as growing it, or selling it, it's not going to be useful as an intoxicant. HOWEVER, it has been included in the drug schedule since it was created by Nixon in order to avoid any legal cannabis plant, no matter the use.
So, does Congress or the AG's office have to deschedule hemp in order to allow the law to be implemented?
Posted by RainDog | Thu Feb 13, 2014, 10:16 PM (2 replies)
I have to say this somewhere and I don't want to register on some site to talk about this show - but I've been trying to figure out where this will go - and this is what I've come up with. It's pure speculation, but if you haven't seen the first 4 episodes, there be spoilers here.
Oookay, so, after rewatching the episodes - I think Cohle is maybe in Louisiana as a "freelance" undercover cop - but maybe that's a stretch.
In any case, when he talks about the "paraphilic love" whatever - I think he's coming to realize that the murder from 1995 is staged to look like satanic ritual murder because the local pols and religious leaders use the fear of this to control the population and to keep them in line.
Hart doesn't realize how much he goes along with that pov - keeping people in line - tho he says it - because he's also so blind to his own justifications for what he does.
So, I think Hart murders LeDoux, or whatever the giant guy's name is, when they track him to his hide out, without due process - I think they could've brought the guy in, but, instead, Hart kills him.
Cohle is loyal to Hart, just as Hart is loyal to him about the lie about the dad with leukemia, because they both did things outside the lines of the law.
But I think they find out that LeDoux was just the criminal the politicians, etc. used because it allowed them to create a panic and the guy was a criminal anyway, so what did it matter to anyone if he was killed.
The murder in the present day - that may be Hart, but I'm inclined to think it's just another criminal put into service for a political/religious goal.
This is kinda sketchy, but it's been on my mind and I have to say it somewhere.
Listen to Cohle's interviews with the present day detectives, thinking that he has been working undercover - ever since he and Hart split, even - he's trying to find out what they know as much as they are.
His mind is a "locked box" because he can't tell about what really happened - out of loyalty, and because the powers that be are too powerful to really do anything about the situation that exists. But he hopes the current detectives will ask him questions so that he can talk about what he can't say.
Posted by RainDog | Thu Feb 13, 2014, 03:48 PM (45 replies)
Italy's constitutional court has overturned a law that tripled sentences for selling, cultivating and possessing cannabis, declaring it "illegitimate".
Prison rights group Antigone say the law has caused prison overcrowding, with 40% of all inmates serving sentences for drug crimes.
It could affect some 10,000 people who may be released from jail as a result.
The law went into effect in 2006 under the conservative government led by the then-Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi.
Italy is second only to Palau for adult consumption of cannabis - 15% of the population is estimated to consume cannabis in Italy.
The European Court of Human Rights ordered Italy to solve overcrowding of prisons - calling the Italian system a violation of human rights.
Possession of cannabis, under Berlusconi's govt., increased sentences for possession from 2 to 6 years to 6 to 20 years.
Alessia Morani, an MP with the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) called the ruling the end of the most absurd laws parliament has passed in recent years.
Posted by RainDog | Thu Feb 13, 2014, 01:12 PM (2 replies)
U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) introduced a bill Tuesday that would change federal law so that the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), commonly known as the “drug czar,” is no longer prohibited from studying the legalization of marijuana and no longer required to oppose attempts to legalize marijuana for medical or broader adult use.
Specifically, H.R. 4046, the Unmuzzle the Drug Czar Act of 2014, would amend the Office of National Drug Control Policy Reauthorization Act of 1998 to remove the following language from the obligations of the director:
(12) shall ensure that no Federal funds appropriated to the Office of National Drug Control Policy shall be expended for any study or contract relating to the legalization (for a medical use or any other use) of a substance listed in schedule I of and.take such actions as necessary to oppose any attempt to legalize the use of a substance (in any form) that –
Posted by RainDog | Wed Feb 12, 2014, 04:02 PM (5 replies)
Perry insisted he didn’t want to join the marijuana “parade.”
“I think the fact is it is very important for science to keep playing a most important role in this before we jump to some conclusion, before we run out and get in the front of a parade that is going somewhere because we think it is where the public opinion is,” he said.
“And I want to share just one thing — or make a response to about Portugal and the legalization of drugs there. In the five years since that has occurred there, 40 percent increase in the murder rate in that country. Anecdotal, I totally understand that, but the fact is we need to look at all of the data, the science.”
“The question for me is if the economics of this is what really drives this, and we as a society and government say it is OK for you to smoke marijuana — we have decriminalized it — basically say that it is OK for you to use, be thoughtful about it, here are the bad things that come from it, what is that going to cost society? I mean, what is the medical cost to this world when we send that message, when influential men and women stand up in front of these young influenceable young people and say it is OK.”
First - a TEXAS REPUBLICAN saying science plays the most important role... LOL... this is the same Republican Party in that state that wanted support for creationism in its party platform.
The Portugal remark is reefer madness.
And, funniest of all - since when did Americans look to the government and think they really care about the person who is most likely to be negatively influenced by marijuana's illegal status? (That person most likely to be negatively impacted, btw, is a young African American male.)
Posted by RainDog | Tue Feb 11, 2014, 01:09 PM (19 replies)
A team of European neuroscientists led by Giovanni Marsicano of the University of Bordeaux has found that, in mice, THC fits into receptors in the brain's olfactory bulb, significantly increasing the animals' ability to smell food and leading them to eat more of it. A big part of the reason why you might eat more food after using marijuana, the research indicates, is simply that you can smell and taste it more acutely.
This effect of THC has to do with the underlying reason why the chemical affects the human brain so potently in the first place. Likely produced by the marijuana plant as a self-defense against herbivores who might feel disorientated after eating the plant and avoid it in the future, THC fits into receptors that are part of the brain's natural endocannabinoid system, which helps to control emotions, memory, pain sensitivity and appetite. Our brains typically produce their own chemicals (called cannabinoids) that fit into these same receptors, so by mimicking their activity, THC can artificially alter the same factors in dramatic ways.
Because scent and taste are so closely related, it (THC) likely allows us to better taste flavors as well.
(The article also notes that our own bodies increase the level of endocannabinoids in the olfactory region when we fast.)
This new finding is likely just a piece of the THC-and-appetite puzzle. Previous research has found that the drug also acts on receptors in a region of the brain called the nucleus accumbens, increasing the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine—and the sensation of pleasure—that comes as a result of eating while high. Other work has found that THC additionally interacts with the same sorts of receptors in the hypothalamus, leading to release of the hormone ghrelin, which stimulates hunger.
Posted by RainDog | Mon Feb 10, 2014, 08:29 PM (0 replies)
Not long ago, Allen St. Pierre couldn’t get an audience with many politicians. When he tried to send them campaign contributions, the checks were returned. His efforts to persuade the political establishment to take seriously the legalization of marijuana were met with blank stares, or worse.
But now lawmakers are beating a path to his door for meetings and advice, hoping to harness this new energy behind an issue that had been on the fringe of American politics. The once-quixotic goal of St. Pierre’s group — NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws — is now one of Washington’s most-discussed issues.
...He would not reveal which prospective presidential candidates have contacted his organization, but he did note that no one from Hillary Clinton’s network has reached out — though he suspects they will as public opinion continues to move in his direction.
...A movement once seen as fringe is now seen as something historic. As a result, the W.E.B. Du Bois Library at University of Massachusetts Amherst has started archiving NORML’s files, including many of St. Pierre’s personal papers. They have moved 200 cartons, 7,500 pounds, and thousands of videos.
and and to the legislators and voters in Washington State and Colorado for their pathbreaking votes!
Posted by RainDog | Mon Feb 10, 2014, 07:17 PM (24 replies)
December 11, 2013 | Kris Hermes
Washington, DC -- In an historic move, the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia (AHP) released the first installation of a two-part Cannabis monograph yesterday that classifies cannabis (marijuana) as a botanical medicine, alongside many other widely accepted Complementary and Alternative Medicines. Written and reviewed by the world's leading experts, the Cannabis monograph brings together an authoritative compendium of scientific data, including long-awaited standards for the plant's identity, purity, quality, and botanical properties. The monograph provides a foundation for health care professionals to integrate cannabis therapy into their practices on the basis of a full scientific understanding of the plant, its constituent components, and its biologic effects.
"The inclusion of cannabis in the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia returns the plant to its place alongside as a proven botanical medicine, which has been used for centuries by countries and cultures around the world," said Steph Sherer, Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access, which helped support the development of the Cannabis monograph. "Health care professionals, researchers and regulators now have the tools to develop effective public health programs for medical marijuana and to further explore its therapeutic benefits." ASA will host a Google Hangout on Thursday, December 12th at 5:30pm PT, featuring a panel of experts discussing the ramifications of the Cannabis monograph and a new Cannabis certification program.
The first Cannabis monograph was introduced in the 3rd edition of the U.S. Pharmacopoeia in 1851, where it remained until the 12th edition in 1942, making the AHP monograph the first of its kind in more than 70 years. Cannabis medicines were produced by Eli Lilly and other American pharmaceutical companies until the federal Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 sharply reduced U.S. cannabis production and prescriptions.
AHP began development of a Cannabis monograph in 2011 in part because of a need for validated standards to guide laboratory analysis for quality control of cannabis and related products. However, AHP also recognized that the expanding use of medical marijuana makes accurate information regarding appropriate use and safety important for health care decisions. Patients, providers, and regulators will also benefit from proven testing standards that can quantify the key chemical compounds, or cannabinoids, that are tied to the plant's therapeutic effects, as well as identify potentially harmful pesticides, metals, and microbes.
Posted by RainDog | Fri Feb 7, 2014, 01:32 PM (0 replies)
In response to the recent New Yorker magazine article in which Obama placed marijuana in the same category of substances as alcohol and cigarettes, and Mark Kleiman's statement that rescheduling would have little to no effect, the author notes it was incorrect to claim rescheduling marijuana is only possible through an act of Congress, and notes there are significant benefits to placing marijuana as a Schedule III - V substance.
As Kleiman points out, removing marijuana from Schedule I would not automatically make it legal for medical use, since any cannabis product still would have to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). “For a doctor to prescribe it,” notes Aaron Houston, a Marijuana Majority board member and WeedMaps lobbyist, “there would have to be an FDA-approved formulation of it.”
Since marijuana itself cannot be patented, a pharmaceutical company would not have much incentive to go through the arduous, time-consuming, and expensive process required to gain FDA approval. Furthermore, drug regulators tend to look askance at herbal medicine, preferring isolated chemicals. “They’re never going to approve a whole-plant organic product,” says Dan Riffle, director of federal policies at the Marijuana Policy Project.
But Riffle adds that rescheduling marijuana would make it easier to conduct research on the plant’s medical utility, which could lead to cannabis-derived medications that would pass muster with the FDA. “The biggest obstacle, at least historically, to doing research on marijuana to prove its medical benefit is that it’s in Schedule I,” Riffle says. “So you had that Catch-22, where marijuana is a Schedule I drug because there’s no evidence, and there’s no evidence because marijuana is a Schedule I drug.”
Beyond the ability to do research is the ability to even consider the research because of "burdensome registration requirements and regulations" for Schedule I substances that do not exist for research into Schedule III or lower substances.
There are other research obstacles, unique to marijuana. In 1998, responding to the legalization of medical marijuana in California, the Clinton administration imposed an additional layer of review on research involving cannabis, requiring approval by the Public Health Service as well as the FDA, the DEA, and the relevant institutional review board. And even after they get all the other necessary approvals, researchers have to obtain marijuana from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), which has a monopoly on the legal supply—something that is not true of other Schedule I drugs. NIDA, an agency whose mission focuses on marijuana’s hazards, has not been keen to assist research aimed at measuring its benefits. Although neither of these requirements is a necessary consequence of marijuana’s Schedule I status, they would be harder to defend if marijuana were reclassified, which would mean acknowledging that it has medical value and can be used safely.
In addition, Section 280E of the Internal Revenue Code prohibits the deduction of business expenses related to “trafficking in controlled substances,” only for Schedule I or II substances.
Removing marijuana as a Schedule I substance would make it possible for the Drug Czar's Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) to be more honest, since they are required by law to oppose the legalization of any Schedule I substance. As Blumenauer recently noted, this inability to speak honestly about marijuana undermines any statement such organizations make when they cannot admit marijuana is less harmful than meth, while every mother and her child know this is reality.
Currently, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), is barred from using any of its funds to promote the legalization of Schedule I substances, but this ban does not exist for substances below Schedule I.
Rescheduling would be a powerful message that science and evidence are more important than the tangle of laws that have resisted this same science and evidence.
Posted by RainDog | Fri Feb 7, 2014, 12:21 PM (29 replies)