Grass Greener Than A White Pill

Is this drug harmful?

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By Attorney Marc Reiner

Special to THELAW.TV<>

 The U.S. needs to re-think how it classifies marijuana.

 The Controlled Substances Act classifies drugs through a scheduling system based on a harms versus benefits spectrum. Schedule I drugs are considered the worst substances for human consumption. Officially, drugs must meet three criteria to become labeled as Schedule I:

   *   the drug has a high potential for abuse,

  *   the drug has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States,

  *   and there is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug under medical supervision.

 Schedule II and other lower scheduled drugs are considered to have a less potential for abuse and have modern acceptable medical uses. Heroin, LSD, marijuana, MDMA, and GHB are the most popular Schedule I drugs while, oddly, Schedule 2 drugs include cocaine, methamphetamine, oxycodone, morphine, and opium.


The legislators may deem marijuana the most harmful drug. But there has never been a recorded case of a human death from marijuana. Certainly people have consumed marijuana and then died from acts of human violence, car crashes, suicides, and other circumstances that lead to the twilight of one's existence. But the mere act of consuming marijuana cannot kill a human being.

 Obviously, the Department of Justice is privy to this information. Those who create our country's drug policies do not live in a bubble. Law enforcement officers, medical doctors, legislators, judges, and other civil functionaries cannot all be oblivious to the pragmatic workings of substances, nor did they randomly assign marijuana to its Schedule I status. Then why does the legal and medical establishment, at least at the federal level, relegate marijuana to a worse status than cocaine, crystal meth, or oxycontin?

 In states that regulate medical marijuana, such as California, a doctor can prescribe marijuana for a host of ailments, ranging from cancer and HIV to chronic pain to anxiety and insomnia. If you are taking marijuana for these medical diagnoses, then you are consuming the THC chemical compound naturally occurring within the marijuana plant. Also, if one takes marijuana to cure or alleviate their ailment, then they are substituting that drug for pharmaceutical drugs.

 Last year the pharmaceutical industry had sales of over one trillion dollars. While some of that money goes to research and development, in the last decade the pharmaceutical industry has spent over a billion dollars on lobbying fees. Assuming those lobbyists did not break any campaign finance contribution laws, every single person running for public office in the last decade, from president to dogcatcher, could have had campaign contributions from the major pharmaceutical companies and their lobbyists.

 Marijuana is not part of the pharmaceutical industry. A common street name for the drug is "weed," primarily gaining the nomenclature for how easy it is to grow in almost any geographical climate. The political climate is the only detriment to the natural growth of this drug.

 Besides the pharmaceutical industry, marijuana opponents naturally include the private prison and probation complex. Companies that profit off the denial of human liberty, the incarceration and warehousing of human beings away from their families and society, need marijuana to stay illegal. Half of the country's 240,000 federal inmates are locked up because of drugs and another couple hundred thousand of the nation's state prisoners are likewise imprisoned for drug crimes. And yet these numbers pale in comparison to the tens of millions of Americans on probation, who pay a monthly fee to the government or private probation companies for the privilege of having their homes, bodies, and lives transparent to the whims of a probation officer at any hour of the day.

 The legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes does save numerous Americans from the pain of illness and from financial ruin due to paying hefty medical office visit fees so that a doctor can prescribe some synthetic drug to mask their ailments' symptoms until that drug is then determined to have side effects worse than the ailment it's supposed to cure. Society needs to look at the motivations behind those who want to criminalize human conduct as a starting point to assess the law's value.

 The author, Marc Reiner, is a criminal defense attorney in West Palm Beach, Florida<>.

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