The pressure is on for the United States Drug Enforcement Agency, DEA. For months, now, a group of eight democratic senators have been pushing hard for the DEA to reschedule cannabis, in effect downgrading it from a Schedule I substance to at least a Schedule II substance, and Canada may not be far behind. This week, The Wall Street Journal reported that that DEA’s Russ Baer stated that the organization is in the final stages of deliberation on the issues and expects a decision “sometime soon.” While the DEA is being purposely vague on the topic, the eight democratic senators who worded the original letter to the DEA, are not.
Who Are the Senators Fighting for Cannabis Rescheduling?
Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, Barbara Boxer of California, Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts, and Cory Booker of New Jersey are the eight senators who originally sent the letter to the DEA. Notice there isn’t a Colorado, Washington, or Washington D.C. senator in there – strange! Elizabeth Warren might potentially be our next Vice President of the United States, and if she is, there is no doubt she will stand by medical cannabis in this country. Mikulski and Boxer are longtime politicians with a lot of clout, as are Wyden, Merkley, and Gillibrand.
What is the DEA Waiting for?
It’s time to make a move. The DEA was waiting on the FDA to decide whether cannabis has valid medical uses (and I think we all know now that it does) and refused to discuss the FDA’s decision publicly in 2015. Although the FDA’s decision is the greatest single factor in whether or not the DEA will reschedule cannabis, the DEA is required to perform its own analysis of cannabis for medical use by federal law. While no one can force the DEA’s hand, they organization has agreed to come to some sort of consensus by August, and the cannabis world and its patients eagerly await the outcome of its decision, which could effectively end federal cannabis prohibition.
What is the Difference Between Schedule I Drugs and Schedule II Drugs?
According to the DEA, drugs, substances, and some chemicals used to make drugs have been scheduled into five categories depending on whether they are medically useful (read: acceptable for use) and how high the risk is for dependency and addiction. So what’s the different between the two hotly-debated Schedules? Schedule I drugs are the worst and most addictive and dangerous, whereas Schedule V drugs are the least addictive. First, the other drugs that are on the U.S. government’s Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act include LSD, heroin, ecstasy, methaqualone, peyote, and psilocybin (mushrooms); it also includes cannabis. Just take a look at the other Schedule I drugs and it becomes quite obvious that cannabis doesn’t belong on this list. This list only includes drugs that are considered to have no known medical use – which also obviously disqualified cannabis.
Schedule II drugs include Vicodin, cocaine, methamphetamine, methadone, Dilaudid, Demerol, OxyContin, fentanyl (yes, that’s what Prince overdosed on), Dexedrine, and Ritalin. Although I’m not holding my breath on this one, I think cannabis should be downgraded to Schedule III (Tylenol with codeine, ketamine) or even Schedule IV (Xanax, Soma, Valium, Tramadol) or Schedule V (Robitussin AC, Lyrica, and Parepectolin). I’m not at all sure the DEA and the FDA agree with me, but either way we’ll all have to wait until August to find out.
This post was originally published on July 7, 2016, it was updated on March 15, 2017.