There is starting to be movement in the federal government regarding the classification and legality of marijuana.
Vivek Murthy, former U.S. surgeon general, expressed interest in what science will learn about marijuana, noting that preliminary data show that “for certain medical conditions and symptoms” it can be “helpful.” In 29 states – including Arizona – and the District of Columbia, cannabis is legal for some medical uses, and 62% of Americans favor legalization for recreational use, according to the Pew Research Center.
Drugs, substances, and certain chemicals used to make drugs are classified into five distinct categories or schedules depending upon the drug’s acceptable medical use and the drug’s abuse or dependency potential.
Schedule I drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Schedule II drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with a high potential for abuse, with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence. Schedule III drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with a moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence. Schedule IV drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with a low potential for abuse and low risk of dependence. Schedule V drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with lower potential for abuse than Schedule IV and consist of preparations containing limited quantities of certain narcotics. Schedule V drugs are generally used for antidiarrheal, antitussive, and analgesic purposes.
So, where does marijuana fall? Marijuana is listed as a Schedule I drug. According to the Drug Enforcement Agency, that means marijuana is in the same schedule as heroin, LSD, ecstasy, methaqualone and peyote.
Meanwhile, meth, which is considered one of the most addictive and psychologically damaging drugs, is classified a step better than cannabis. To quote the DEA’s schedule classification, meth use only “potentially lead(s) to severe or psychological or physical dependence.”
Arizona had a citizen initiative that proposed legalization of marijuana make the 2016 ballot, but it just barely failed in the voting booth. A try in 2018 failed to get it on the ballot.
And a large part of the resistance is because the federal government still considers it illegal. If the federal government legalized marijuana use and rescheduled it into a different classification of drug, say a schedule III or IV drug, most states wouldn’t be so cold-footed about the idea of legalization.
States like Arizona, with voters consistently showing their interest in legalization, would likely adopt the federal measures rather quickly.
Adopting these measures would go so far in helping free up police and federal funding to go after more serious drug offenses like the recent MAGNET and MCSO busts of nearly 5 pounds of meth.
The federal government needs to work faster on this issue. Simple movement isn’t enough, and it isn’t saving citizens money. Locking up teenagers or 20-somethings for using marijuana is a waste of funding.
If beliefs and laws about heroin and cocaine – which used to have accepted medical uses – can change, it’s only fair that marijuana receives the same analytical re-thinking.