Senate considers reclassifying marijuana

In a potentially groundbreaking development, the Senate is going to consider for the first time a plan that would change the way marijuana is listed as required by the Controlled Substances Act. Currently marijuana is listed as a Schedule I drug, the most restrictive category. That’s more restrictive than cocaine or meth.

The proposed bill would place marijuana in Schedule II. Here’s the description of Schedule II drugs:

Schedule II drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with a high potential for abuse, less abuse potential than Schedule I drugs, with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence. These drugs are also considered dangerous. Some examples of Schedule II drugs are:

cocaine, methamphetamine, methadone, hydromorphone (Dilaudid), meperidine (Demerol), oxycodone (OxyContin), fentanyl, Dexedrine, Adderall, and Ritalin

The bill would also expressly legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes.

Rescheduling marijuana would not change the status of marijuana as an illegal drug in general terms, but it would accomplish some very important goals. It would force senior politicians to declare themselves on this issue in an way that could influence future elections. Along the way it would provide new legitimacy, making future schedule downgrades a lot easier.

This also offers an interesting opportunity to scramble the otherwise rock-hard partisan political alignment that have gridlocked almost every legislative effort. Marijuana decriminalization has broad support that is largely bi-partisan. This bill has sponsorship from Republican Rand Paul and Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand.

Chris Ladd is a Texan living in the Chicago area. He has been involved in grassroots Republican politics for most of his life. He was a Republican precinct committeeman in suburban Chicago until he resigned from the party and his position after the 2016 Republican Convention. He can be reached at gopliferchicago at gmail dot com.

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Posted in Drug War
36 comments on “Senate considers reclassifying marijuana
    • 1mime says:

      There are many studies and articles on marijuana as a “gateway drug”, but this NYT link didn’t focus on this specifically. Having been trained in substance abuse education, a major concern about Marijuana by law enforcement focused on the unknown quality or “purity” of the product by the novice, recreational user rather than addictive properties. Suppliers “cut” marijuana and used fillers and the end user could never be sure what the product contained, leading to dangerous unintended consequences. Law enforcement and those involved in substance abuse treatment acknowledged Marijuana’s potential as a gateway drug because it was more readily available to young people and it was a socially attractive activity.

      Over time, as the NYT article points out, prescription abuse and more sophisticated distribution of hard narcotics have reduced fears about marijuana. It’s medicinal benefits also boosted its value. Unfortunately, its inclusion in schedule #1 has not been adjusted, thus, possession of a very small amount of marijuana has landed lots of recreational users in the slammer. The opportunity for arrest intervention and a treatment/rehab option might have not only changed the individual’s life path but reduced costs of imprisonment.

      So, why has it taken so long for government to act on marijuana? And, why the GOP? And, why now? Could the sale and growth of legal marijuana been possible under a Republican President who wouldn’t have “looked the other way” when states chose to legalize pot?

      As welcome as any rational action by this Congress is, when book-ended by their recent actions in other, more critical areas of national security, it is almost laughable.

      • Doug says:

        “Suppliers “cut” marijuana and used fillers…”

        Huh? How exactly does one cut or fill a bud? Sounds like somebody is getting their drugs mixed up.

        The gateway drug argument has been around for a long time. IMO, it’s a stupid argument. Why isn’t Miller Lite the gateway? Most people probably have a beer before they smoke pot. Or maybe coffee is the gateway. Or spinning around in a circle until you’re dizzy.

        Where the argument *does* make sense is that pot is illegal, so by definition the act of obtaining it puts the user in contact with criminals who may be selling other things, too. But that’s an argument to legalize it.

        BTW, can you post the link?

      • 1mime says:

        Gee, Doug, since you’re the expert, you post the link. And, for alcoholics, Bud Lite would be a gateway drug. But, that’s too difficult for an expert like you to grasp. Your only pleasure in posting on this blog is to attack other people, not add anything positive.

      • Doug says:

        1mime, you said “this NYT link” but didn’t provide the link. I wasn’t attacking you, unless you wrote the NYT article. There are plenty of stupid ideas about illegal drugs. Please don’t take it personally.

        To explain a bit further: Marijuana is generally sold in bud form. The flowering part of the female plant harvested and sold whole. I cannot imagine how anyone could could cut or add fillers to a bud. No idea what your experience is, but imagine broccoli is very expensive and someone at the supermarket decides to “cut” it with cheaper kale. How would that be accomplished?

        Cocaine, heroin, and other white powders? No doubt. Most of the heroin “overdoses” are due not to the inherent danger of heroin, but to the unknown purity and/or other constituents in the mix. I’m convinced that if heroin were legal and available in a known strength there may be a few more addicts but a lot less crime and fewer deaths.

        As for the gateway theory, I’m sorry that it’s a bogus argument to bolster the theory that marijuana should remain illegal. But that’s all it is. Only a small percentage of marijuana users move on to other drugs. Pretty much every heroin addict has tried nicotine and/or alcohol, usually before marijuana. If there is a “gateway”, which one is it?

      • bubbabobcat says:

        You naively don’t think pot can be cut to maximize profit? This is the USA Doug. If it is possible the US or China will taint any product to no end in pursuit of the almighty dollar. Broccoli? Really? You think oregano or catnip have NEVER “accidentally” ended up in a nickel or dime bag? And you personally inspect and count how many stems are in a bag to ensure absolute “purity”? Okaaaay.

      • Doug says:

        They stopped using oregano when people stopped saying “nickel bag” about thirty years ago. Keep up, man.

      • bubbabobcat says:

        And you know that because you are so cool and hip? Got it.

  1. flypusher says:

    FYI

    Schedule 1: marijuana, heroin, LSD, ecstasy, and magic mushrooms.
    Schedule 2: cocaine, meth, oxycodone, Adderall, Ritalin, and Vicodin.
    Schedule 3: Tylenol with codeine, ketamine, anabolic steroids, and testosterone.
    Schedule 4: Xanax, Soma, Darvocet, Valium, and Ambien.
    Schedule 5: Robitussin AC, Lomotil, Motofen, Lyrica, and Parepectolin.

    • johngalt says:

      Wow. That’s amazing – I was not aware just how screwed up these drug laws are. From an addiction and harm standpoint, the mary jane ought to be in the Robitussin category. Xanax, Valium and Darvocet are way more addictive. In Canada, tylenol with codeine is an OTC drug, which you can buy at 200 pills for C$10. We need to wipe the drug laws – preferably in their entirety – but if not then with a set of actual physicians and a few criminologists to assess actual harm.

      • flypusher says:

        I was given a prescription for Tylenol with codeine back when I was recovering from a broken clavicle. Absolutely worthless stuff IMO, as it did next to nothing for the pain. Should have insisted on Vicodin.

        I was also amazed that Valium is schedule 4??????!!

      • johngalt says:

        The wife gets migraines and tylenol with codeine is fairly effective at reducing the pain without knocking her out. By prescription here it’s $35 for 30 pills (copay). As I said, on our rare trips to Canada it’s OTC and 1/20th the price.

      • texan5142 says:

        “I was also amazed that Valium is schedule 4??????!!”

        If it ain’t blue, give me two.

      • 1mime says:

        Yes, but then the pharmaceutical companies wouldn’t be able to extort and make the obscene
        profits they do! It’s all about them, don’t you know. The deal that pharmaceutical companies struck with the George W. Bush administration in order to obtain their cooperation in passing the controversial prescription drug program, prohibits the federal government from negotiating drug prices for Medicare. This has cost the taxpayer big time. The Marijuana issue has destroyed a lot of lives but is only one example of drug abuse in America.

      • johngalt says:

        It’s interesting how the GOP loves free markets and capitalism, except when they don’t.

      • 1mime says:

        Again, cost control, JG. Logic and consumer oriented policy – why would we ever hope for such rational thinking?

      • johngalt says:

        Exactly. In a real free market, a large consumer (such as Medicare) would naturally negotiate drug prices with the sellers to drive a harder bargain. That this drug benefit barred that common sense practice essentially allows Pfizer to put whatever price they care to dream up on drugs sold to the government. It is corporate welfare at its most ridiculous.

        More sinister, this then allows anti-government conservatives to bleat about the high cost of government and point to how inefficient it is relative to the private sector. I wonder sometimes the degree to which some politicians sabotage government agencies and programs for the express purpose of using them as a counter-example. It’s hard to look at the way the post office is Congressionally-mandated to run and not suspect this.

      • 1mime says:

        JG: “More sinister, this then allows anti-government conservatives to bleat about the high cost of government and point to how inefficient it is relative to the private sector. I wonder sometimes the degree to which some politicians sabotage government agencies and programs for the express purpose of using them as a counter-example. It’s hard to look at the way the post office is Congressionally-mandated to run and not suspect this.”

        You got that right, John. Sort of like cutting budgets of government programs, departments, divisions so as to make them fail – ATF, EPA, ACA, FEMA, to name a few. Your example of what Darryl Issa principally (but with full complicit support of his GOP colleagues) did to the U.S. Postal Service is one of the saddest abuses of Congressional authority I have ever seen.

        This is downright evil.

    • Houston-stay-at-Homer says:

      My initial thought was that the schedule breakdown followed drugs more likely to be used by minority folks compared to White folks, but I think the breakdown is more along the lines of “dirty hippies”, young people, minorities, and poor people versus middle- to upper-class White folks.

      It is hard to quibble with heroin at the top, but the others are things those dirty hippies in the 60s did or that college students and poor people do.

      Miraculously, “momma’s little helpers” and others more notable for middle-class folks tend to not be viewed as bad.

      What on earth could go wrong with politicians making decisions on things they know nothing about?

  2. flypusher says:

    “This also offers an interesting opportunity to scramble the otherwise rock-hard partisan political alignment that have gridlocked almost every legislative effort. Marijuana decriminalization has broad support that is largely bi-partisan. This bill has sponsorship from Republican Rand Paul and Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand.”

    You mean that Congress might actually look at pharmacology instead of the paranoia of old reactionary racist rubes, and in a bipartisan manner no less?

    No it’s not April 1st.

  3. goplifer says:

    And how did marijuana come to be treated as more serious than cocaine or meth? A little history of how we got here:

    “During the Great Depression, massive unemployment increased public resentment and fear of Mexican immigrants, escalating public and governmental concern about the problem of marijuana. This instigated a flurry of research which linked the use of marijuana with violence, crime and other socially deviant behaviors, primarily committed by “racially inferior” or underclass communities. By 1931, 29 states had outlawed marijuana.”

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/dope/etc/cron.html

  4. Richyj29 says:

    I agree with RobA, I didn’t know there was specific classifications of drugs. I thought all the drugs mentioned were all illegal. Thanks for the update and I will be keeping an eye on how this plays out.

  5. 1mime says:

    For the legal eagles in the group, will the change in classification retroactively impact prior marijuana convictions? Lifers all excited to see the GOP finally moving on social issues (-: I’m excited that they are finally showing some common sense….especially medicinal uses of marijuana and possession of small amounts.

    • way2gosassy says:

      As far as I know Mime if you were convicted of a crime a year ago and the law changes today you are still guilty of breaking the law that was on the books when you were convicted. Now it would be possible for them pass legislation to pardon or release all those convicted but I really don’t see that happening.

  6. Ed Ketchoyian says:

    I’m very happy I signed up to receive your posts.

    Sent from my Verizon Wireless 4G LTE Smartphone

  7. GG says:

    Long overdue. There are far too many young people in prison, with truly hardened criminals, for having small amounts of marijuana.

    • 1mime says:

      My earlier question related to what right of appeal do those who were convicted for possession of small amounts of M. have? I agree whole-heartedly with you.

      That said. This move, while welcome and long over-due is still small ball. The GOP tit for tat is mind-boggling. They take a step like this and then start de-funding state universities and community colleges? Sorry, Lifer, I can’t give the GOP “atta boys” when I read things like this:

      https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2015/03/06/arizona-budget-deal-would-eliminate-all-state-funds-3-large-community-college?wpsrc=slatest_newsletter&sid=5388d1a3dd52b8417a011bf1

      • 1mime says:

        The GOP continues to do all they can to destroy the Obama diplomatic effort with Iran and embarrass the President. They refuse to let negotiations progress within the designated time frame through proper channels. Today we learned about a “Senate coup” led by Sen. Tom Cotton, a wet behind the ears Republican Senate Freshman. He is leading a group of U.S. Senators who have sent a formal letter of warning directly to Iranian leadership in a flagrant effort to defeat the diplomatic accord. Is the GOP so afraid Obama’s diplomacy will work that they are compelled to such arrogance and sabotage? Do they hate him that much?

        So, NO kudos on majijuana legalization when the GOP is playing such dirty pool as we saw with Netanyahu’s visit and now this. What would the GOP have said if Dems had organized a group of Senators during the Iraq Invasion and sent such a letter to Saddam Hussein? America’s treaty with Israel means more of our young people’s lives will be at risk and our nations resources further committed to help a country whose leader refuses to give diplomacy a shot and thumbs his nose at the sitting President of the United States. And, in Netanyahu’s own word, HE has no alternative plan to offer other than to hope Iran will voluntarily deter from developing a nuclear bomb!” Because, after all, he has the U.S. Congress in his hip pocket!

        This is a serious affront, it is vindictive and injurious to our nation. I’m pissed. GOP, you can keep your majijuana legislation. I underestimated how vindictive the GOP could be.

        http://www.politico.com/story/2015/03/harry-reid-response-gop-iran-letter-115900.html?hp=t3_r

      • bubbabobcat says:

        It’s not just an insolent freshman wingnut Repub outlier, mime. Ole Mitch Yertle McConnell led the charge until he got cold feet and then let the idjit lead the cannon fodder charge. Assholes (almost) all of them. 8 Republicans in the Senate did not join in the intentionally insulting insurrection including Thad Cochran of Mississippi who had to rely on the Democratic Black vote to fend off a teabagger primary challenge. So far he seems to have gotten the message and moderated himself to finally represent ALL of Mississippi.

      • 1mime says:

        Most of the group who didn’t sign the letter signed the bill by Corker that would require Senate approval of any agreement that might be struck through the diplomatic effort. Of course, they are doing such a fine job of sabotizing any possibility of success that the bill has not yet had to be filed. Further, any agreement that would result in a treaty possibility would require Senate approval, but all other negotiations would fall under the existing executive branch authority.

        Unless the executive is Barack Obama.

  8. RobA says:

    I wasn’t really aware of the specific classifications. Weed was more dangerous then coke or meth?

    What in the actual fck?

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