By maintaining marijuana’s schedule I status for over 45 years the US government has been able to sustain the world-wide myth that marijuana is a drug of abuse, as addicting as heroin and medically worthless.
In a paper entitled: Ending the U.S. Government’s War on Medical Marijuana Research, the well-heeled Brookings Institute recently published their analysis suggesting that the War on Marijuana should end; that the controlled substances act uniquely orphaned marijuana into a no man’s land that forbade research.
Yet, of all the controlled substances that the federal government regulates, cannabis is treated in a unique manner in ways that specifically impede research.
THE CONTROLLED SUBSTANCES ACT
The nail in the cannabis coffin was finalized with the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) which fraudulently assigned marijuana schedule I drug status. Signed into law by President Richard Nixon as the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970.
Meanwhile, you might ponder that there has been a colossal change in the attitudes of our government officials over the last two decades after being schooled on the safety and health-giving properties of cannabis.
But you’d be wrong to consider that. As proof just a few weeks ago the new acting director of the DEA publicly admitted the obvious, that he felt marijuana was probably safer than heroin.
Predictably, Rosenberg did emphasize that he believed cannabis posed potential harms, stating: If you want me to say that marijuana’s not dangerous, I’m not going to say that because I think it is. Do I think it’s as dangerous as heroin? Probably not. I’m not an expert.[ref](http://blog.norml.org/2015/07/30/new-dea-leader-suspects-marijuana-is-not-as-bad-as-heroin/) 11/01/2015[/ref]
However, this statement was fired as damage control on the heels of an earlier awkward remark implying that pot and heroin were equally destructive.
Ok, you’re not an expert but you know for certain that marijuana is bad for you? In the same breath he blithely remarked that the leaf is what is smoked in cannabis.
When I first read these comments I had to laugh.
I immediately thought of Austin Powers when he was re-animated. Austin-stuck in the sixties-had no idea how much the world had changed. His remarks often times making him look hilariously absurd and antiquated. But Mr Powers had a serious excuse: he was cryogenically obtunded.
Not so with our DEA officials who seem always out of touch with the times and other government institutions. Liken our Drug Czar and DEA officials to suffering an Austin-like loss of perspective but without the gelato-festooned excuse.
This stems from a culture of prejudice against pot, marinated with an incapacity to change in the face of rapid scientific advancements. Over several decades compelling research has debunked the dogmatic paradigm of “weed is dangerous and as addicting as heroin.” Reflecting the massive amounts of new material that has accumulated that soundly countermands old-school, provincial notions of pot as a serious narcotic of abuse.
However, the scaffolding that has prevented pot from being recognized as a true medicine is still in place. Every attempt to remove these blockades has been met with frustration. From the Brookings Institute:
Historically, four petitions that have been initiated to reschedule marijuana or remove it from the schedules entirely have been denied or stalled by DEA with disposition times ranging from five to more than 20 years.
MEET THE NEW BOSS, SAME AS THE OLD BOSS
When you are foolish it’s best to stay quiet. That way the few that still respect you can pretend that you’re not. Moments after polishing his new tin badge he started his diatribe. The new DEA chief’s comments provide clinical proof that genius avoids bureaucracy.
Are you sitting down?
Mr Rosenberg stunned, and incensed, the world this week with his petulant comments that smoking pot as medicine is a joke.
Defying five-thousand years of cannabis medicine, insulting a half-dozen medical academies and 25 US state governors, while displaying text book Dunning-Kruger Effect, (a metacognitive inability of the unskilled to recognize their own ineptitude and evaluate their own ability accurately)[ref](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning%E2%80%93Kruger_effect) 11/07/2015[/ref], the new appointee embarrasses the US while spiralling into abject foolishness.
WHAT REALLY BOTHERS ME
Mr. Rosenberg, not unlike a Medieval Pope, and way too comfortable in his new skin, lets the world know what he thinks (sic) by going for the jugulars:
What really bothers me is the notion that marijuana is also medicinal — because it’s not,…We can have an intellectually honest debate about whether we should legalize something that is bad and dangerous, but don’t call it medicine — that is a joke.[ref](http://www.cbsnews.com/news/dea-chief-says-smoking-marijuana-as-medicine-is-a-joke/) 11/07/2015[/ref]
Like a bug solidified in amber, his comments reflect the DEAs prehistoric, refractory attitude toward marijuana. Especially now as Canada, Mexico, Jamaica, the world actually, are planning to legalize cannabis. It’s impertinent and pretty disheartening to those who suffer from illnesses for which cannabis supplies the only relief.
What really bothers me is his profound ignorance and incredible hubris. He just said that every state’s MMJ programs are a joke. That he alone knows better than all of the medical minds that have legislated marijuana into medicine. In just a few weeks he has already alienated half the population for saying that pot is as bad as heroin, that consumers smoke the leaf not the flowers of cannabis, and that it’s very dangerous without quoting a single study.
Why hire an adversary to surf the inevitable tidal wave of cannabis legalization?
We expected this with the stubbornly intractable former queen of the DEA.
Mrs. Leonhart is more like a flu-dream aberration of our English hero King Richard the Lionheart who won the love and respect of his country from his successful military campaigns in Outremer during the Third Crusade.
Lacking much needed deference from the scientific community and the general public, she’s no novice when it comes to controversy. As former chief of the DEA one would assume that this person knew the potential harms of the illicit drugs she puts people in jail for. Yet some of the most oblivious comments on marijuana that any government official has ever claimed (save for Rosenberg) were routinely produced by Michele Leonhart.
Like Rosenberg, Leonhart’s atavistic ideas toward marijuana are based more in lore, legend, and magic than science. It displays the culture of bias Kool Aid our DEA officials wantonly guzzle.
Before stepping down in a storm of criticism (fired?) for allowing DEA agents to party with Columbian prostitutes in Cartel-funded sexcapades on her watch, she didn’t shy away from more controversy.
Leonhart’s inappropriate disapproval of Obama’s leniency toward marijuana activists after a 2012 meeting is revealing. Apparently she was infuriated that her boss used science and reason to formulate an opinion on pot’s harms.
IT’S LESS HARMFUL THAN BOOZE
President Obama stated factually that marijuana was less harmful than alcohol. Something any high school misanthrope would have to agree with even if he or she were budding neocons.
The New Yorker published an exclusive interview with Obama, in which he said marijuana is less harmful than alcohol and that “it’s important for [legalization] to go forward” in Colorado and Washington, whose residents voted in November 2012 to allow recreational use of the drug.[ref](http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2014/01/27/dea-leader-fumes-about-white-house-playing-softball-with-marijuana-legalizers) 11/01/2015[/ref]
To appreciate how benighted her ilk are let’s look at this quote in reference to the statement made above by Mr Obama:
To have the president of the United States publicly say marijuana was a bad habit like alcohol was appalling to everyone in that room,” Kern County, Calif., Sheriff Donny Youngblood told the Herald. “I think the way that [Leonhart] felt was that it was a betrayal of what she does for the American people in enforcing our drug laws. … She got a standing ovation…
“I wasn’t there and can’t comment on what she said,” DEA spokesman Rusty Payne tells U.S. News, “[but] it shouldn’t be a surprise that we’re not for drug legalization…. That’s been consistent forever, so I don’t know if this is anything new or surprising.”[ref]IBID[/ref]
Pretty revealing…but appalling? Really?
Donny, was the standing ovation for NOT knowing the difference between marijuana and alcohol?
IT’S ALL BLACK AND WHITE
In the DEA criminal justice orbit there is no middle ground. Because of this ignorance they are often at odds with other fellow institutions, and the current administration’s philosophy and nearly all of the science.
Apparently, they don’t read much on the drugs they enforce and they don’t care. Armed with personal bias while citing irrelevant, poorly designed or outdated studies, they still insist that marijuana is harmful and of no medical benefit.
They wear the white hats and marijuana wears a black hat, very simple. Even when Obama disagrees with them they apparently do whatever they want to do.
That’s the definition of a rogue agency is it not?
DO WE STILL NEED A DEA?
This cultural mindset of ideology over science flows through the veins of these institutions in particular the DEA, but the FDA and NIDA don’t fall far from the tree.
Since marijuana is so harmful, they contend, only the penal system can correct the problem. So for the last forty-five years their solution was to put people in 10 x 10 cages for decades. Makes sense right? That’s DEA deductive reasoning (sic). Well done.
That’s why to this day we still must endure nearly 700,000 arrests per year for simple possession of marijuana in the US. Furthermore, it has led directly to 1,559,091 non-violent drug offenders behind bars. That’s one and one-half million people either in prison, on parole, or on probation who are victims of the drug war.[ref]NORML[/ref]
Now where’s that standing ovation?
FEDERAL PROSECUTORS ARE OFF THE RESERVATION
The new DEA acting director Mr Rosenberg is already proving to be worse than Leonhart. In direct violation of the spirit of the DOJs recent announcement, his agency busted three Indian Nations for growing marijuana or hemp.
Of course, the native American tribes involved only started grow operations AFTER the DOJ recently gave them permission to grow pot/hemp! Just this last fall the DOJ sent to all US attorneys the US Department of Justice Cole Memorandum Oct 28, 2014. It provides guidelines for Indian tribes with eight federal priorities to avoid such as distributing marijuana to minors, or preventing pot possession or use on federal property.
The latest casualty occurred with the Menomonee Indian reservation’s 30,000 plus cannabis operation in Wisconsin. After allowing both state and federal officials to tour the facility and take samples for analysis, the feds came back, not with reason, but with MP5s, scythes, hubris and plumes of cheap aftershave to destroy the fledgling grow site.
Meanwhile with a 30,000 pot plant investment mowed off the map the Menomonee Indians must endure the crippling debt the DEA left them with.
This just in (Nov 10, 2015): The Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe of South Dakota who planned to open the world’s first pot resort in January is now on hold until further clarification comes from the DOJ. Thousands of pot plants have been destroyed as part of the negotiations.
Have these federal prosecutors gone off the reservation?
After all, the Menominee aren’t the only tribe to take the Justice Department at its word, only to be raided down the road. This past summer, the DEA raided two California tribes, the Pit River Tribe and the Alturas Indian Rancheria, seizing 12,000 plants.
Are the tribes being held to a different standard than states where it is legal?
Menominee Tribal Chairman Gary Besaw doesn’t know, but he isn’t happy about it.
I am deeply disappointed that the Obama administration has made the decision to utilize the full force of the DEA to raid our Tribe,..We offered to take any differences in the interpretation of the farm bill to federal court. Instead, the Obama administration sent agents to destroy our crop while allowing recreational marijuana in Colorado. I just wish the President would explain to tribes why we can’t grow industrial hemp like the states, and even more importantly, why we don’t deserve an opportunity to make our argument to a federal judge rather than having our community raided by the DEA?[ref](http://stopthedrugwar.org/taxonomy/term/159) 11/03/2015[/ref]
The betrayal of trust is in keeping with a 200-year tradition of breaking contracts with Indian nations.
In an interview with US News and World Report, tribal law expert Lance Morgan, a member of Nebraska’s Winnebago tribe who has worked with tribal governments pondering marijuana operations, said the Cole memorandum guidelines are not being applied consistently and warned the Menominee raid would be remembered as a historic betrayal.
How can you allow people to buy marijuana in a retail environment in some states and then raid an industrial hemp operation of a tribe? The only difference is that there is a tribe involved,…
This odd federal policy of encouraging investment and then raiding the new business sets us back a few decades in federal tribal trust and economic policy.[ref]IBID[/ref]
Another clever way to maintain marijuana’s “demon status” is to control who gets access to approval, funding, and pot cigarettes for any new study. A monopoly over approving academic study proposals while limiting the availability of medical marijuana for clinical studies in the US ensures that only very select applications receive a green light. Often times these studies are designed to make cannabis look bad.
It also ensures that the forward flow of scientific enquiry regarding marijuana’s astounding syllabus is choked to a capillary-like trickle.
Critics contend that the DEA, FDA, and NIDA maintain an ivory curtain of bureaucratic barriers to discourage any enthusiastic researcher from elucidating just how “medical” marijuana can be.
After all, we can’t have scholars contradicting the dangers of marijuana by revealing pot’s potential for curing disease.
That would make it a medicine which changes everything.
And that might embarrass some apex bureaucrat who’s underwhelming fund of knowledge on cannabis comes from his own agencies antediluvian pamphlets.
This has worked out exceedingly well for those in lofty government positions looking to protect their entrenched jobs designed to maintain the status quo.
Yet for every negative we also have the opposite. Take the inauguration of the first cannabis only research facility in the US.
THE BIRTH OF THE CMCR
In the year 1999 an agency was formed called the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research (CMCR; www.cmcr.ucsd.edu). Their objective is to expand the public scientific knowledge on the therapeutic usages of marijuana. Their 2010 publication provides an illustration.
Below is a decision flow chart provided by the CMCR which demonstrates the complex interwoven hurdles clinicians must tolerate to receive approval for human studies in the USA.
Because of this imbroglio, we have very little human clinical peer-reviewed information on marijuana, and we desperately need double-blinded inquiry.
In their conclusions the CMCR had this to say:
As a result of the vision and foresight of the California State Legislature Medical Marijuana Research Act (SB847), the CMCR has successfully conducted the first clinical trials of smoked cannabis in the United States in more than 20 years. [Emphasis mine]
STEP BY STEP
Here’s how the labyrinthine process works or perhaps how and why it doesn’t work.
In order to evaluate the scientific validity of the proposals submitted, the CMCR engaged senior scientists from around the nation to serve as a Scientific Review Board (SRB). So far so good.
Studies recommended for funding by the SRB have to be approved by five different institutions/committees. That’s five committees and four too many.
First the proposal is submitted for review to the Research Advisory Panel of California (RAP-C), followed by the Office of Public Health and Science of the federal Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). [Note: approval from the DHHS is no longer required as of 2015]
Upon final approval from each of the above agencies, study teams were authorized to order cannabis cigarettes from NIDA and to begin recruiting patients. This process is described in Figures 1 and 2.
The impenetrable Byzantine-like application process, along with the deliberate blackballing of marijuana by government officials, is now the greatest impediment to learning the true nature of marijuana and its health benefits.
OLE MISS, POLITICS AND SCIENCE
Note in figure two the bottom right corner the box entitled “order product.” That refers to ordering research weed from NIDA. The only source for cannabis cigarettes for clinical study is through NIDA’s “Ole Miss” canna-plantation which has maintained a monopoly on medical cannabis for nearly five decades.
According to several researchers Ole Miss produces schwag with a hemp-like profile. Heavily criticized by scientists across the country the University of Mississippi’s marijuana product has been called into question for being weak, old, and as dried out as Gobi Desert sand biscuits.
When confronted with these underwhelming facts NIDA spokesperson Sheri Grabus said she has heard of no concerns about the quality of their cannabis product. She went on record saying that NIDA is satisfied with the University of Mississippi’s performance and subsequently renewed their monopoly.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse, a branch of the National Institutes of Health, administers the program and in late March granted Ole Miss a $68.7 million contract renewal, effectively upholding the university’s distinction as America’s legal weed supplier.[ref](http://www.ibtimes.com/how-mississippi-lab-taught-us-everything-we-know-about-marijuana-better-or-worse-1890470) 11/05/2015[/ref]
But Rick Doblin (see below) takes umbrage saying “It’s old, dried, brittle and mixed with seeds and stems. This has not been quality. Their goal is to provide poor quality medical marijuana to researchers in order to get negative results. Some of the marijuana is over ten years old.”[ref](https://www.mainstreet.com/article/governments-marijuana-contract-open-bids-nobody-reaches-it) 11/01/2015[/ref]
A quick gander on the NIDA website regarding THC content of their pot supply shows it to be remarkably feeble. The highest THC content available on the site was 6.7% for the high (sic) strength batch, with most of them running between 2% for low strength and up to 3.6% for medium strength. These numbers are more consistent with old Mexican brick marijuana than today’s varietals. Now add ten years of shelf life and the THC vanishes.
Many clinicians question whether the marijuana product Ole Miss is churning out each year can rightly be given medical status. A quick study of typical California medical grade pot versus “Ole Schwag” leaves one with a sense of despair.
Or compare this to Israel’s canna-plantations. The differences are disturbingly vast.
Using low potency marijuana is yet one more factor that can undermine clinical success in human trials.
CHANGE? NOT LIKELY
One person tried to change things up a bit. Dr. Lyle Craker, a professor at the University of Massachusetts filed a suit in 2001 to be allowed to grow research cannabis. Dr Craker said the quality from NIDA’s supplier, the University of Mississippi, was poor and the supply was constrained. After years of efforts, a DEA Administrative Law Judge approved the University of Massachusetts to grow the research cannabis, only to be overruled by the DEA.
Rick Doblin is the CEO of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS). He recently received approval to study the effects of marijuana on PTSD in US veterans using NIDA’s very own University of Mississippi pot supply. He stated in reference to the apparent shortage of marijuana for study,
NIDA is required under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 to provide a ‘continuous and uninterrupted supply’ of marijuana for research, which they have now admitted to failing to provide.[ref](https://www.mainstreet.com/article/governments-marijuana-contract-open-bids-nobody-reaches-it) 11/01/2015[/ref]
When you add insufficient supply of marijuana to the list as yet another road block retarding clinical research, one is almost forced to concede that NIDA is deliberately shorting those who need pot cigarettes for their studies.
Think about it, if there are only a tiny body of researchers in the US utilizing Ole Miss for medicine (23 currently) where in creation is all of the marijuana going? They have twelve acres of pot plants located in the rolling hills of northeast Mississippi producing marijuana year after year with very few patrons using it.
Factor in the cultural bias that we have seen from above and it makes perfect sense why nothing gets done regarding weed research.
RESCHEDULE? FORGET ABOUT IT
What about rescheduling marijuana to a schedule II or III status? Like finding the Golden Fleece many have tried, all have failed. Four bills have been introduced, the first in 1981, that would either move marijuana to Schedule II or remove it from the schedule entirely. Each proposal has died in committee.[ref](http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/research/files/papers/2015/10/20-war-on-marijuana-research-hudak-wallack/ending-the-us-governments-war-on-medical-marijuana-research.pdf) 11/05/2015[/ref]
Don’t forget the waiting period which takes years. Perhaps the ultimate hurdle is wearing down the applicant to a point of capitulation; growing moss while waiting for a decision can be brutal.
Lastly, there exists a sticky wicket to launching your own grow facility should you desire to apply for the US contract next time. It’s another catch 22 which goes like this, as Rick Doblin explains:
You have to demonstrate [that] you have an FDA license to apply, which only Ol’ (sic) Miss has. It’s fruitless for anyone else to apply. If you currently cultivate marijuana, then the DEA says you are violating Federal law and therefore you can’t get an FDA license.[ref](https://www.mainstreet.com/article/governments-marijuana-contract-open-bids-nobody-reaches-it) 11/02/2015[/ref]
The culture of bias in our antiquated, agenda-driven institutions, most notably the DEA, is the main reason why pot maintains the undeserved reputation it has had since the late 1950s.
I have listed over a half-dozen reasons why the situation will never change until our government abide by what its citizens demand by replacing intractable, calcified, anti-pot bureaucrats with more enlightened officials.
It’s a situation that is inexcusably the fault of federal policies failing to keep pace with changing societal views and state-level legal landscapes.[ref]John Hudak PhD, Grace Wallack. Brookings.edu (see number 12 above for link to PDF document).[/ref]
It will take time and a visionary president who is not afraid to use scientific reason over the ignorance and fear of marijuana that federal officials have maintained through bureaucratic folk lore.