Is Marijuana Policy Ahead Of The Science? Not.


The new line for federal marijuana prohibitionists seems to be, “I worry that we have gotten away from allowing science to drive our policy when it comes to marijuana.” This doorknob dumb quotation is from someone who should know better, Obama’s former surgeon general, Vivek Murthy.

Clearly, the US has never allowed science to drive marijuana policy, which has been more a witch hunt than a quest for truth.

If science determined US marijuana policy, Congress would have never over-ridden the will of the American Medical Association in 1937 when federal prohibitionist criminalized cannabis. The AMA pleaded, but to no avail:

Since the medicinal use of cannabis has not caused and is not causing addiction, the prevention of the use of the drug for medicinal purposes can accomplish no good end whatsoever. How far it may serve to deprive the public of the benefits of a drug that on further research may prove to be of substantial value, it is impossible to foresee.

If science determined US marijuana policy, Richard Nixon would have accepted in 1972 the scientific findings of his own Shafer Commission (The National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse). To his horror, the commission found marijuana as least no more dangerous than alcohol and recommended it be handled in the same way. Furious, Nixon instead sought to use marijuana laws to punish hippies, the counterculture, and Viet Nam war protesters:

I want a goddamn strong statement on marijuana. Can I get that out of this sonofabitching, uh, domestic council? … I mean one on marijuana that just tears the ass out of them.

If science determined US marijuana policy, the Drug Enforcement Administration would have taken the findings of its own law Judge Francis Young who in 1988, now nearly 30 years ago, clarified the science of marijuana. He found marijuana to be medically useful, remarkably safe and recommended down scheduling off severe Schedule I.

Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man. By any measure of rational analysis marijuana can be safely used within a supervised routine of medical care.

In strict medical terms marijuana is far safer than many foods we commonly consume.

It would be unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious for DEA to continue to stand between those sufferers and the benefits of this substance in light of the evidence in this record.

Of course, Judge Young’s findings and recommendations fell on deaf ears of DEA administrators who have continued to be unreasonable, arbitrary, and capricious. The latest example was current DEA acting administrator Chuck Rosenberg, pictured above,  who made some equally dumb statements at the same Cleveland Clinic conference on opioids where Dr. Murthy spoke. Doing what DEA administrators do — lying –, he said “marijuana is not medicine.” Rosenberg continued,

If it turns out that there is something in smoked marijuana that helps people, that’s awesome. “I will be the last person to stand in the way of that. … But let’s run it through the Food and Drug Administration process, and let’s stick to the science on it.

Of course, the FDA is totally unable to assess the medical value of cannabis in a fair way, mainly because it is a medicinal plant, not a pharmaceutical drug. The central scientific fact to process is that marijuana kills no one. Marijuana kills zero people. DEA Judge Young marveled at this fact back in 1988.

Nearly all medicines have toxic, potentially lethal effects. But marijuana is not such a substance. There is no record in the extensive medical literature describing a proven, documented cannabis-induced fatality.

The other pharmaceutical drugs “run through the FDA process” manage to kill over 100,000 Americans each year, making them a leading cause of death in the USA. Cannabis kills no one. If the DEA administrator were at all curious about the medical value of cannabis, he could check out some of the 22,000 published studies and reviews.

If science determined US marijuana policy, marijuana would have never been classified as a Schedule I drug, and would certainly not have been fossilized as such for nearly half a century, halting nearly all medical research and priming 20 million cruel and needless arrests.

The last thing we need worry about is marijuana policies getting ahead of the science. We need marijuana policies that allow science, something Schedule I does not do. From the considerable cannabis science we do have, clearly marijuana prohibition is a medical and moral crime against humanity.