Yesterday I wrote a piece on Martin Luther King Day. In it, I referenced “A Call for Unity“, the letter written by eight white clergymen in Alabama calling on the Negroes rallied by Dr. King to stop being so uppity (I paraphrase). Part of their plea for Dr. King to call off the non-violent marches for equality and justice was this point:
When rights are consistently denied, a cause should be pressed in the courts and in negotiations among local leaders, and not in the streets. We appeal to both our white and Negro citizenry to observe the principles of law and order and common sense.
Today, Americans for Safe Access and our friend, Michael Krawitz, were once again consistently denied their rights to use marijuana medicinally, in accordance with the law and order established in eighteen states (and our nation’s capital) and in defiance of all common sense. (In this case, at least, the judges ruled that Krawitz “had standing”; previously they had just dismissed the petition because nobody petitioning could prove that federal denial of medical marijuana would actually harm them.)
Where’s our Dr. King? And when do we march?
I am so frustrated by the decision that I reached out to my contact at the FBO (Federal Bureau of Obfuscation), Dr. Vinnie Boombatz, PhD.*, for an explanation. His letter is reproduced below:
At issue is a petition for the Drug Employment Administration (DEA) to reschedule marijuana from its current Schedule I status. The judges ruled that the DEA’s scheduling of marijuana is not “arbitrary and capricious.” The DEA, it seems, has solid factual reasons for banning all marijuana use, and by so doing is in no way unaccountable and ruled by political whim. As we all know by now, Schedule I drugs meet three conditions:
- (A) The drug or other substance has a high potential for abuse.
- (B) The drug or other substance has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.
- (C) There is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision.
Drugs in Schedule I include heroin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), marijuana (cannabis), 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (ecstasy), methaqualone [quaaludes], and peyote. (Or as Dr. Hunter S. Thompson used to call them, “the usual”.) Thus, cancer patients smoking a doobie to ease the pain and wretching of chemo are a lot like the junkie in Trainspotting, the Merry Pranksters, your average rave, a shaman on a spirit quest and whoever it is who can still find ludes.
I know, you’re all screaming “there are eighteen states that accept medical use of marijuana!” As far as federal courts are concerned, it just ain’t so. See, the federal Department of Health and Human Services told the federal DEA in this federal court that marijuana lacks a currently accepted medical use in the United States. Those eighteen states and the city where this federal court decision was made merely refuse to prosecute people who break Schedule I marijuana laws if they have a note from their doctor saying it might help their medical conditions. Those states don’t officially recognize marijuana’s medical value.
“Oh,” you complain,“some states, like Oregon do officially recognize marijuana’s medicinal value”? So do their doctors prescribe marijuana? Aha, no, they don’t, so see, marijuana has no accepted medical use in the United States. “But they can’t prescribe because the federal DEA would revoke their license?” Right, because marijuana is a Schedule I drug with no medical value in the United States – we can’t let doctors prescribe those!
“But, but,” you stammer, “there are four patients in a federal program getting federal medical marijuana from the federal government’s medical marijuana farm in Mississippi!“ Nope, sorry, that’s an investigational program that was discontinued. Those patients were grandfathered in and there is no evidence that we’ve never investigated that marijuana has any medical benefit for them.
“Wait a minute,” you interrupt, “the federal government has patent #6630507 on the medical value of marijuana!” Yup, we have a patent on one of the molecules in marijuana that we can someday put into a pill, spray, or inhaler and sell at a high-profit mark-up to insurance providers and Medicare. Not a crude plant you can grow at low cost at home with lots of molecules in it that work synergistically and have never caused a fatal overdose.
“C’mon now,” you kvetch, “the federal government has known since 1974 that THC can kill cancer! There are 11,734 published studies on cannabis and another 6,599 on THC in the federal government’s PubMed database!” Calm down, the federal government is very interested in the medical efficacy of molecules and compounds that can be derived from marijuana and put into patentable pills like Marinol®, sprays like Sativex®, and inhalers (we’re still working on those). So much so that we rescheduled Marinol® pills down from Schedule II (like cocaine and meth and Oxycontin) to Schedule III (like Vicodin and testosterone and steroids).
“Hold on,” you ask, “you mean dronabinol pills that contain 100% synthetic THC**?” Exactly. 100% THC, suspended in a sesame oil capsule, has a medical use, lower abuse potential than cocaine and meth, and can be used safely when supervised by doctors. 10%-25% THC, suspended in a plant flower with a whole bunch of other cannabinoids, has no medical use, even when supervised by doctors, because it is as likely to be abused as heroin. It’s really quite simple – patents make molecules safer.
“That,” you mutter in disbelief, “is the most capricious and arbitrary thing I’ve ever read.” No, dear reader, it is not. For we have actually suggested that natural THC harvested from pot plants be listed at Schedule III if it is extracted by corporate people to make pills, but remain at Schedule I if it is grown by natural people to roll joints.
I hope this clears up any confusion.
Dr. Vinnie Boombatz, PhD. - Assistant Adjutant Administrator of Annoying Acronym Acquisitions (AAAAAA)
Office of Disinformation, Federal Department of Obfuscation
* Apologies and RIP to Rodney Dangerfield.
** Bonus link: The FDA’s info sheet on Marinol® warns: “Patients receiving treatment with MARINOL® Capsules should be specifically warned not to drive, operate machinery, or engage in any hazardous activity until it is established that they are able to tolerate the drug and to perform such tasks safely.” But in many states you’re a DUI driver if you smoked a joint yesterday.