Alibi V.25 No.3 • Jan 21-27, 2016 

Opinion

Why is Medical Cannabis Still Illegal?

marijuana
Pixabay

In spite of hundreds of studies and millions of anecdotal reports proving the medicinal value of cannabis, the Drug Enforcement Agency, Food and Drug Administration, National Institute on Drug Abuse and National Institutes of Health continue to claim that cannabis has no medical use and must be prohibited by keeping it in Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act. In spite of 23 states and the District of Columbia allowing medical use of cannabis and 17 more states allowing the use of certain cannabis extracts for medical reasons, these agencies continue to argue “cannabis has no accepted medical use in the United States.” Large scale epidemiological studies have proven the safety of cannabis, especially when compared to other medications, but incompetent bureaucrats continue to perpetuate long dispelled myths of the “dangers of marihuana.”

Rather than investing in real research to evaluate the millions of individual claims of the medical benefits from cannabis, the NIH spends millions of dollars on new pseudoscientific methods of blaming “marihuana” for the evils of the world. Even if legitimate medical researchers find outside funding, the NIDA refuses to allow access to supplies of cannabis for large scale clinical studies looking for medical benefits. In rare instances, NIDA does release small amounts of cannabis for medical research but the FDA refuses to acknowledge these studies, claiming they are too small. The FDA tells the DEA that cannabis has no medical value, is not safe for medical use and has no accepted medical use in the United States. The DEA demonizes and terrorizes medical cannabis patients by denying them access to lifesaving medication, locking them up, taking their property and denying them access to jobs through “zero tolerance” workplace policies. They shoot to kill, occasionally realizing only afterwards that they’re at the wrong house.

So what can be done to change this? Change could come from an Act of Congress to move cannabis out of Schedule I. Unfortunately, Congress has demonstrated neither the intelligence nor the compassion to take this action. Change could be even simpler. The Attorney General is responsible for administering the Controlled Substances Act. If the AG issues a legal opinion stating that cannabis has accepted medical use “in the United States” because cannabis has accepted medical use in 40 states “in the United States,” she could simply order the DEA to move cannabis to a less restrictive schedule to comply with the law. If cannabis has “any” accepted medical use in the US it can’t be in Schedule 1. Unfortunately, Eric Holder wouldn't do this when I asked and I doubt that Loretta Lynch will take such an action on her own.

Change can also come from the administrative process set up by Congress when they drafted the Controlled Substances Act. This is the route that I’ve chosen. In December of 2009 I filed a rescheduling petition for cannabis with the DEA. In 2011, another petition was filed by the Governors of Washington and Rhode Island. The FDA sat on these petitions for years before recently completing their review and issuing a recommendation to the DEA. Now the DEA is sitting on that recommendation while over 100 Americans commit suicide every day. In my clinical practice, cannabis has proven to be the only medication that is effective for treating PTSD and rapidly decreasing suicidal thoughts in many patients.

It’s possible that the FDA told the DEA to remove cannabis from Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act. However, based on the FDA’s past record of incompetence and/or political grandstanding I suspect that they have recommended the fast track for expensive pharmaceutical cannabis extracts, but want to continue prohibition of whole plant cannabis. I hope I’m wrong. I’ve filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the FDA to find out what they told the DEA and I’m awaiting their response. With American lives at stake, I want a speedy decision. If the DEA refuses to remove cannabis from Schedule 1, they’ll be dealing with me in the Court of Appeals.

Until then, I will continue to refer patients to New Mexico’s medical cannabis program. I currently manage close to a thousand PTSD patients in the medical cannabis program and hope to increase that number now that I’ve started my own practice and am no longer prescribing pharmaceuticals. Cannabis has proven far superior to any pharmaceutical for treating PTSD and suicidal thoughts.

I’m collecting data for research purposes, since we can’t trust the NIH to support cannabis research. In the latest issue of The Nurse Practitioner , I discuss the use of cannabis for treating PTSD.

I’m also trying to educate medical professionals and the public through events like the first Cannabis Health Summit. This unique event on Jan. 23-24 will allow tens of thousands of Americans to see some of the country’s leading experts speaking about medical cannabis for free. You can sign up at cannabishealthsummit.com.

2016 may very well be the year cannabis is finally removed from Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act, so that all Americans will finally have access to this lifesaving medication.