How the D.E.A.’s move on marijuana is harming Americans and incarcerating thousands: part 1

Miriam Himes | Managing Editor

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As of August, the Drug Enforcement Administration has decided to keep marijuana on its list of America’s most dangerous drugs. Despite the movement to move marijuana to a Schedule 2 drug where it could join its so very much less threatening companions like Adderall, Percocet, and Oxycodone, marijuana continues to remain as a Schedule 1 drug, those that are widely viewed as some of the most dangerous and easily abused substances available.

Because no official medical drug has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration that contains cannabis, the D.E.A. refuses to remove it from the Schedule 1 drug classification. Thus, marijuana sits on the same shelf as heroin, ecstasy, peyote, and other harder drugs in the eyes of the D.E.A. In comparison, however, marijuana does not possess nearly the same amount of addictive and harmful qualities as these truly dangerous drugs. In fact, even if marijuana was considered to be Schedule 2 drug, it would still not even compare in danger and addiction to its fellow shelf mates.

According to a study done by PBS earlier this year, heroin and opioids are the number one cause for death by drug overdoses. Not only are “drug overdose(s)…the leading cause of accidental death in the US…opioid addiction is driving this epidemic, with 18,893 overdose deaths related to prescription pain relievers, and 10,574 overdose deaths related to heroin in 2014” (American Society of Addiction Medicine 2016). So we have to ask the question, why is marijuana considered as toxic and as dangerous as these Schedule 1 and Schedule 2 drugs when it’s not breaking records for drug overdoses and killing users at such an alarming rate?

The primary issue here is the criminality of the drug; because of its Schedule 1 label, individuals can face the harshest penalties for carrying and/or selling it. While 25 states have legalized the medical use of it for pain relief, appetite stimulation, anxiety, sedation, and even help in relieving symptoms of HIV/AIDS, cancer, glaucoma, and multiple sclerosis (NCLS), the federal government still has the ability to prosecute users, growers, and carriers of the drug to the fullest extent, thereby equalizing them with more dangerous criminal groups who transport large amounts of cocaine and heroine, for example.

In simpler terms, by keeping marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug, the federal government is completely losing sight of its priorities and the safety of the American public. Marijuana at its worst causes anxiety, paranoia, laziness, and overeating. Heroin and cocaine at their worst? Addiction and death. Yet, we prosecute and treat those who use and process these drugs the same. Shouldn’t we be more concerned about individuals are who are addicted to hard drugs and struggling to maintain a livelihood rather than those who are just looking for good vibes?

Maybe Chuck Rosenberg, head of the D.E.A., needs to light up a joint and take a breather to realize that marijuana isn’t killing Americans and ruining lives and change its federal schedule.

Stay tuned next week to see how this impacts the prison systems and oppresses minorities.