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Monday, March 30, 2015

A Double-Edged Sword in the War on People - by Citizen Jay Daily

     I suppose it’s like a double edged sword.  On the one hand, the fact that our Federal Government is actually taking cannabis research seriously is astounding.  No, seriously, it’s just inconceivable.  It’s a huge step.  Just the mere fact that our representatives in Congress are actually talking about cannabis in any way other than a prohibitory fashion is beyond remarkable.  On the other hand, a rescheduling of cannabis is not exactly what the community was hoping for…at least not the “Cannabis Community.”

     The Cannabis Community is filled with more varied groups than ever before.  Not just for stoners anymore, cannabis has found its way into the hearts and minds of the general community—well, at least some of them.  It’s on the hearts and minds of desperate parents frantically searching for a modicum of relief for their beloved stricken.  It’s on the whispering lips of returned soldiers, the “unfallen” who’ve come home haunted by nightmares and startled visions.  It courses through the veins of recovering opioid addicts, relieving their pain, mitigating their anxiety, reducing their harm.

     After more than a decade of States’ experimenting with medical marijuana, the representatives in Congress are starting to take note.  We’ve definitely seen movement in our movement over the last several years—especially with four states plus D.C. enacting cannabis legalization.  All told almost half of the nation’s states have addressed cannabis in one way or another.  The number of states with pro-cannabis legislation stands at 23.  By law, Congress will be obligated to address the issue once half of the states have enacted laws addressing the matter.  By some accounts, they’re ahead of the game.

      Enter the C.A.R.E.S. act. The latest piece of cannabis “friendly” proposed legislation to make its way to the halls of our esteemed Congress.  Among other things, the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States Act—presented to Congress jointly by Senators Rand Paul (R) of Kentucky, Cory Booker (D) of New Jersey, and Kristen Gillibrand (D) of New York proposes to reclassify cannabis from a Schedule I drug to a Schedule II drug.
    And that’s got some people worried—on both sides of the cannabis prohibition argument.  As a Schedule I drug, cannabis is placed on the most restrictive of the Federal Drug Administration’s watch lists.  Schedule I drugs are those considered to have the highest level of potential abuse AND no officially recognized medical uses.  The Federal Government placed cannabis in this category under Nixon—even though his own National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse didn’t recommend cannabis be treated that way.  Instead, the commission concluded that decades of misunderstanding, coupled with outright misrepresentation of the effects of cannabis, led to its prohibition even though there was “little proven danger of physical or psychological harm from the experimental or intermittent use of the natural preparations of cannabis.”  The Commission went so far as to recommend decriminalizing simple possession of small amounts of cannabis, stating that criminal proceedings were overly harsh and that the constitutionality of marijuana prohibition was suspect.

     BUT, so much comes from the strict prohibition of cannabis.  It’s completely insidious just how far the tentacles of prohibition profits reach.  Even thinking about it for a moment can overwhelm the average reasonable citizen…  And this profoundly profitable prohibition positively predated Nixon and the FDA.  Let’s see.  There’s all the plastics. Probably more than you’ve realized.  Like, for example, the plastic coatings on pharmaceutical products; or nylon, polyester or any other synthetic fibers or fabrics; not to mention every container for any product anywhere.  There’s building materials.  Hempcrete is an amazing product that actually gets stronger through time and is resistant to microbial infestations (like mold and mildew).  And it’s sustainable at a level that trees will never attain.  But do you know of any houses built of it?  There’s paper, one of the first conspiratorial industries to come out against cannabis (Thanks, William Randolph Hurst!)  And again, unlike making paper from trees, cannabis paper production is sustainable.  But we don’t do it anymore.  And then there’s fuel.  Hell, every war fought by the USA in the course of my lifetime has been over the control of fossil fuel—oil.  So absurd, considering that one of the founders of the American auto industry constructed one of his originally designed mass produced-model cars from hemp, and to be fueled by hemp, only to have it never see the light of day.  Many call it conspiracy.  Whatever you call it, it’s got to change.  

     The prohibitionists desperately want cannabis to remain on Schedule I because as long as they can legally prohibit it, there is no way cannabis can address any of the industrially catastrophic issues that lie looming dangerously above our front doorsteps.  The same issues they are creating and compounding by their very industry. 

     Rescheduling cannabis to the second level would relax some of the control exerted over it by the FDA.  Schedule II drugs are those that exhibit a high potential for abuse, have currently accepted medical use in treatment in the US or a currently accepted medical use with severe restrictions (good examples are morphine, and of course, cocaine), or they are substances that have shown their use to lead to severe psychological or physical dependence.  The real difference, however, is that Schedule II drugs can be legally studied and the Federal Government recognizes their potential for research.  And there’s the kicker, because if the Feds suddenly allowed positive cannabis research and studies the population would awaken to the possibilities of cannabis plastics, cannabis fibers and fabrics, cannabis paper products, and most horrifically cannabis fuels.  Did I mention that it’s also a fantastic source of usable protein?  We could literally feed the world.  And these ideas scare the crap out of our neoconservative/neoliberal corporatist overlords. It could ruin everything!  (Did I not use the word “conspiracy” above?)

     On the other side of this argument lie those in the cannabis community who fear that a rescheduling of cannabis—as opposed to its full de-scheduling—will only put its control into the hands of the pharmaceutical industrial complex.  And there is merit to this concern.  Right now, all of the substances found on the FDA Schedule II are controlled by pharmaceutical companies.  They patent the rights, own the products, and sell them to the rest of us at exorbitant rates.  If cannabis were to fall under their control how would the rest of us fare?  Would home grows be allowed under law?  What about dispensaries?  Would you even be able to get/use actual flowers or concentrates?  Who would control distribution?  How would that all look?  It’s a terrifying prospect when you think about how the pharmaceutical companies make their profits and control supply.

     Take Marinol, for example.  Marinol—the synthetic form of THC—is a Schedule III drug, defined by the FDA as those with a moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence.  What is Marinol?  It’s a form of cannabis oil.  One that is patented and owned by a corporation.  One that is sanctioned by the FDA because it is solely owned and controlled by a pharmaceutical company.  And that’s the scare.  That cannabis can be taken away in its natural form and presented back to the public in only a synthetic, patented, wholly-owned derivative form.  One that would be far out of the price range for the average citizen. 

     These are valid concerns that need to always be in the forefront of our thoughts as a community of activists.  We’ve got to remain vigilant.  The CARES Act appears to address these concerns.  In addition to compelling the Federal Government to finally recognize that cannabis has accepted medical use, it is the “Respect States Act” part of the proposal, in particular, that’s important to note here.  Simply put, the act allows states to set their own medical marijuana policies, permits VA doctors to prescribe veterans medical cannabis to treat serious injuries and chronic conditions, and most importantly it would respect the states that have already set their own medical cannabis programs and prevents federal law enforcement from prosecuting patients, doctors, and caregivers in already established medical cannabis states.

    These are reforms that I can get behind.  Though I don’t think this proposal has a snowball’s chance in Hell of being enacted—or even seriously debated on the floors of today’s Congress—if it somehow miraculously does become law it would go a long way to confronting if not remediating the War On People, which is the reality of our long-standing and totally failed “War On Drugs.”

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