The federal government’s Drug Enforcement Agency has certainly been receiving some well deserved criticism as of late. Between the current acting director’s inflammatory statements that prompted a petition with over 100,000 names calling for his dismissal, and now a recent call for a funding cut to the DEA’s cannabis eradication program, the much maligned agency is looking more defunct by the day. It has been a long time coming, and we can expect more of the same with both medical and recreational cannabis becoming widely accepted and legalized by more and more states. What we really need now is a federal rescheduling of cannabis, or preferably, the descheduling of it all together, so that law enforcement can focus on truly harmful drugs.
The people are awakening and becoming aware of the great injustice that has been perpetrated against us and inflicted on the earth in the name of cannabis prohibition. We’ve been denied sufficient and safe access to a plant that not only has incredible therapeutic value and healing properties, but can also be cultivated to provide a plethora of consumer products, such as clothing, paper, and fuel just to name few. Nearly half of our United States have now made medical marijuana legal for those who have specified conditions that have been recognized to be adequately treated with some form of cannabis. Although quite a variety of conditions and many effective treatments have been recognized and employed, there have been limitations to the research and use of the practical application of science due to the status given to “marijuana” by the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).
Even with plenty of evidence to show that cannabis is helpful for treating various illnesses and ailments, both physical and mental, the DEA still maintains that it should remain on Schedule I according to the CSA, which classifies it as a drug “with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” And since they’ve grouped marijuana in with actual drugs “that are the most dangerous drugs of all the drug schedules with potentially severe psychological or physical dependence,” this apparently gives those who oversee the DEA the right to try and mislead and misinform the general public by making false claims about cannabis and its medicinal value, in particular.
Earlier this year, when President Obama appointed former U.S. attorney and FBI official Chuck Rosenberg as the acting director of the DEA, many drug policy reformers were “hopeful the former prosecutor will sing a different tune than Michele Leonhart, the outspoken DEA leader he’s replacing,” as U.S. News proclaimed back in May of 2015. Leonhart was known for her hard-nosed approach and resistance to reform and she ended up retiring in the midst of various scandals and other egregious incidents involving the DEA, which are described in more detail in a Drug Policy Alliance press release published the month before Rosenberg’s appointment.
Unfortunately, it does not seem that the President’s appointment of Chuck Rosenberg as head of the DEA will be any more productive for drug reform than the tenure of the former misguided directorship of Michele Leonhart. Most have heard by now that Mr. Rosenberg is under the impression that cannabis is dangerous, but “probably not as dangerous as heroin,” and that the idea of medical marijuana is “a joke.” For weeks now, he’s been under fire for making these ignorant comments, and now that a group of medical marijuana patients recently delivered the more than 100,000 petitions to the doorstep of the DEA headquarters, calling for Rosenberg to be fired, a bold group of lawmakers has also issued a letter authored by Representative Earl Blumenauer and directed to the President, supporting the idea of replacing him. In it Blumenauer poignantly states:
“The real joke is that the DEA has played a huge role in propping up federal policies that have systematically blocked research of marijuana’s medicinal value. If there are any questions about its safety or effectiveness, it’s because the federal government continues to stymie science.”
Obviously, we have a ways to go before any Drug Enforcement Agency leadership is going to be willing to accept that cannabis should be descheduled or at least rescheduled on the list of controlled substances. It is important and encouraging though, that at least some of our representatives, such as Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and the six others who joined him in signing the letter to the President, are calling for the removal of Mr. Rosenberg and a more sensible approach to drug policy. I would encourage anyone reading this to call or send a thank you note to Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Sam Farr (D-CA), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Ted Lieu (D-CA), and Jim McDermott (D-WA), who are all standing with Representative Blumenauer and those who signed the petition to replace Chuck Rosenberg. Together, we can do this…we can set the captives free and liberate cannabis for once and for all.