In January of 2013, a federal appeals court sided with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency by ruling the agency could continue to classify Marijuana as a Schedule I drug. The DEA reserves Schedule I classifications for drugs with a high risk of abuse and no currently accepted medical use. The plaintiff, medical marijuana advocacy group Americans for Safe Access (ASA), is expected to appeal the decision, leading to an eventual Supreme Court showdown.
The court of appeals ruled insufficient scientific and medical evidence existed to reclassify the drug. For their part, ASA argues over 200 peer-reviewed studies support marijuana’s medical potential. The argument is part of a national debate: 20 states and the District of Columbia have medical marijuana laws, which contradict those federal laws that criminalize marijuana possession.
Is Marijuana Medically Beneficial?
Advocates of medical marijuana claim marijuana relieves multiple conditions, from chronic pain to glaucoma. Clinical trials suggest that marijuana can treat neuropathic pain, as well as improve appetite and relieve nausea in AIDS patients and those receiving chemo. Other claims are less than adequately supported.
Where the Law Stands
Medical marijuana law, as it stands right now, is a mash up of state laws passed as much for popular votes as for any concern about medical benefits. Many of these laws are open to abuse, with unscrupulous physicians prescribing marijuana for almost any condition.
As for the feds, federal agents have been told not to pursue marijuana possession charges as aggressively as the law allows. So we have a federal law outlawing marijuana possession, but the law often doesn’t get fully enforced.
The situation is untenable. The conflict between state and federal law, and even between federal law and action, creates a situation in which marijuana can easily be abused under the guise of medical treatment, no matter how ridiculous the claim. This isn’t fair to legitimate researchers trying to prove marijuana’s medical properties, it isn’t fair to federal agents who are torn between the law and practicality, and it isn’t fair to the American people who deserve a fair, clear ruling on the issue.
Marijuana, if it has real medical properties, should be subject to the same regulations as any other medication with addictive side effects. Refusing to deal with the problem won’t make it go away.
What do you think?