Under the current regime of the war on drugs, marijuana is classified as a Schedule I substance.
This category is reserved for stuff that the government considers to be “the most dangerous, most medically worthless” substances and, along with cannabis, includes hard drugs like heroin.
Meanwhile, cocaine, crystal, meth, and PCP are all Schedule II substances, presumably meaning that they’re less dangerous than cannabis.
As SF Weekly so nicely summarizes the situation: “Yes, kids: Uncle Sam would apparently prefer you snort cocaine than dare breath the foul fumes of cannabis sativa.”
Obviously, this system of classifying substances according to their presumed danger to public health is deeply flawed.
In particular, it is this system that officially codifies the cultural myths surrounding the dangers of cannabis—fears that have been manufactured and disseminated through systematic propaganda campaigns.
But there could be some good news beginning to emerge.
A letter written by the U.S. Department of Justice to Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer, and leaked by cannabis journalist Tom Angell, reveals that plans to reschedule marijuana out of its current status as a Schedule I substance may already be underway.
Angell summarized the document by writing that the “letter from the Department of Justice to Rep. Earl Blumenauer reveals that DEA has received a recommendation from FDA as to whether marijuana should be rescheduled under federal law.”
The letter itself explains that the “DEA is currently reviewing two petitions to reschedule marijuana in accordance with the CSA (Controlled Substances Act).”
“Before initiating rule making proceedings to reschedule a controlled substance under the CSA, DEA must obtain a scientific and medical evaluation and scheduling recommendation from HHS (Department of Health and Human Services).”
In what appears to be the most important section of the letter, the Department of Justice states that the “DEA recently received the HHS scientific and medical evaluations as well as a scheduling recommendation that HHS prepared in response to the aforementioned petitions.”
As of now, the DEA is apparently “reviewing these documents and all other relevant data to make a scheduling determination in accordance with the CSA.”
“Upon completion of the determination, DEA will notify the petitioners of its decision and plans to publish the full analyses of both HHS and DEA in the Federal Register.”
So although it sounds like the DEA isn’t quite ready to reclassify marijuana, the cogs may be beginning to turn. We’ll just have to wait and see what the DEA concludes about the HHS recommendations to reschedule cannabis.
Obviously, a reclassification isn’t enough on its own to dismantle the war on drugs, but it could be a significant start.