Cannabis Due Its Time

August 31, 2023

I’ve smoked marijuana for nearly half a century, and I’m a much better person for it, so this is long, long overdue:

Marijuana has a shitty history due to asshole history. Americans and Europeans had known of pot’s medical value since at least the 1830s, and toward the end of the 19th century, we could buy cannabis extracts in pharmacies and doctors’ offices to help with stomach aches, migraines, inflammation, insomnia, and other ailments. Yet, due to racism, bad medical bullshit, and crafty, and cruel politicians, weed has been flooded in a criminal zone for decade after decade.
And it floundered (History): ‘Even though there was no evidence to support claims that marijuana had a Jekyll-and-Hyde effect, 29 states outlawed marijuana between 1916 and 1931. The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 essentially banned it nationwide despite objections from the American Medical Association related to medical usage. This act came just a year after the film Reefer Madness warned parents that drug dealers would invite their teenagers to jazz parties and get them hooked on “reefer.”

Times have changed, though, too slowly for my taste. Yet now 23 states and DC have legal recreational-use weed laws, with medicinal use allowed in 38 states. Supposedly, an estimated 36.4 million people age 12 or over used marijuana during the past month.

And now to Joe Biden — via The Washington Post yesterday afternoon:

The Department of Health and Human Services has recommended to the Drug Enforcement Administration that marijuana be reclassified as a lower-risk, Schedule III controlled substance, according to a person familiar with the recommendation who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the issue. Marijuana is currently a Schedule I controlled substance, deemed alongside heroin and LSD as having the potential for abuse and with little or no accepted medical use.

DEA, which said it has the final authority to classify a drug under federal law, confirmed it has received a recommendation from HHS and said it will now initiate its review. The process could take months. If DEA follows the health agency’s recommendation, marijuana would be placed in the same category as anabolic steroids and ketamine, which can obtained with a prescription.


The HHS recommendation is consistent with efforts by President Biden — who is running for reelection in 2024 — to reshape the nation’s marijuana policies.

Last October, Biden offered pardons to anyone convicted of a federal crime for simply possessing the drug, and he directed his administration to expedite a review of whether marijuana should continue to be listed as a Schedule I substance.

The recommendation to recategorize marijuana was made in a letter sent by HHS to the DEA this week, although officials at both agencies declined to release the letter, or to confirm the nature of the recommendation. Bloomberg News first reported on the Schedule III recommendation.

Advocates for full legalization say the HHS recommendation doesn’t go far enough, and that people could still face criminal charges related to possession of, or dealing in, controlled substances.

“Just as it is intellectually dishonest to categorize cannabis in the same placement as heroin, it is equally disingenuous to treat cannabis in the same manner as anabolic steroids,” said Paul Armentano, deputy director of the pro-legalization organization NORML, in a statement. The organization advocates for marijuana to be treated similar to tobacco and alcohol, which are not controlled substances.

He added: “It will be very interesting to see how DEA responds to this recommendation, given the agency’s historic opposition to any potential change in cannabis’ categorization under federal law.”

Other experts believe DEA will follow HHS’s lead. Howard Sklamberg, a former Food and Drug Administration official, said the HHS position is “a big deal” in the government’s long and complicated relationship with marijuana, and he predicts that DEA would accept the health agency’s recommendation. That’s because DEA must defer to HHS on the scientific and medical aspects of the issue, which is a large part of the determination about scheduling, he said.

And an update of sorts from the Post late this afternoon — a growth spurt of marijuana use:

If a recommendation by the nation’s top health agency to reclassify marijuana is adopted, the drug could gain wider acceptance as a medical treatment, pot businesses could see their bottom line boosted and a path toward national legalization could be charted, experts said Thursday.

The Department of Health and Human Services this week recommended that marijuana be removed from the category reserved for the riskiest drugs, such as heroin and LSD, and moved to one for certain prescription drugs. The decision to reclassify marijuana ultimately resides with the Drug Enforcement Administration, which could take months to complete its evaluation.

Multiple requests to reschedule marijuana in the past have failed. Most recently, in 2016, the Obama administration’s DEA denied a request from two Democratic governors to change the classification. At the time, the DEA cited concerns that cannabis had a high potential for abuse, no accepted medical use in the United States and lacked an acceptable level of safety for use even under medical supervision.

Medical cannabis has really taken off in the last few years with pot derivates being used to aid sufferers of Alzheimer’s disease, to HIV/AIDS, to multiple sclerosis, and muscle spasms, on and on — the health benefits have really expanded in just a short span of time. We’ll have to wait and see, I guess. Yet with it all, it’s a good start to rehabilitating marijuana.

Willie can march us forward into this evening:

Bong hit, or not, yet once again here we are…

(Illustration out front: ‘Cannabis,’  by Michael Creese, and found here.)

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