Condemnation for the Drug Enforcement Administration’s decision to keep marijuana listed as a Schedule I drug has been universal. The DEA defines Schedule I drugs, substances, and chemicals as “. . . drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” Those in the medical field have argued that it is impossible to conduct trials to determine possible medical use because, being a Schedule I drug, research-grade marijuana is nearly impossible to acquire. But they can’t get it off of Schedule I because they can’t conduct the trials. Paging Captain Yossarian.
And despite the enormous sea change in public opinion on marijuana across America — and a sitting president who managed to make something of himself despite having, by his own admission, used marijuana and “maybe a little blow” — on Thursday, the DEA responded to two petitions (one from Governor Raimondo with the governor of Washington) with the depressing news that marijuana would remain on the list of dangerous drugs, right up there with heroin. Cannabis is in fact listed under “Hallucinogenic and psychedelic substances” with LSD and psilocybin. Jeez where are they getting this stuff?
Well according to the New York Times editorial board (8.12.16) there is this one guy in Mississippi . . .
Since 1968, the University of Mississippi has been the only institution allowed to grow the plant for research. This has severely limited availability.
And here is the one tiny ray of hope from the DEA’s announcement,
The D.E.A. now says that because researchers are increasingly interested in studying marijuana, it will permit more universities to grow the cannabis plant and supply it to researchers who have been approved to conduct studies on it. This should make it easier for researchers to obtain varieties of marijuana with varying concentrations of different compounds.
However, this does not begin to address our futile war on drugs. The DEA will continue to enforce the unenforceable, and the United States will keep fueling the illegal drug trade and the ensuing violence.
In a recent appearance on CBS This Morning, author Don Winslow called the DEA’s announcement, “. . . very good news for the Mexican drug cartels . . . By keeping it illegal you create billions of dollars for psychopathic killers.” For more on the evils wrought by our whack-a-mole drug policies, you can read Winslow’s “El Chapo and the Secret History of the Heroin Crisis” in the August Esquire.
If you wonder why America is in the grips of a heroin epidemic that kills two hundred people a week, take a hard look at the legalization of pot, which destroyed the profits of the Mexican cartels. How did they respond to a major loss in revenue? Like any company, they created an irresistible new product and flooded the market. The scariest part: this might not have happened with El Chapo in charge.
And this is why Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP)* proposes a broader approach to our failed war on drugs. The heroin story does tell us one thing; it is possible to hit the drug trade where it hurts. Just not one drug at a time.
The DEA was created by executive order in 1973 by President Richard Nixon. From their own history page . . . and they seem to be bragging.
At its outset, DEA had 1,470 special agents and a budget of less than $75 million. Today, the DEA has nearly 5,000 special agents and a budget of $2.03 billion.
And what do we have to show for that money? An exploding heroin epidemic, discriminatory mass incarceration, total availability of all illegal drugs, Border Patrol corruption that threatens our national security, destruction of our National Parks, I could go on.
It is time to overhaul our failed drug prohibition policies and eliminate the DEA. Just think of what we could do with an extra $2.03 billion.
*I am a speaker for LEAP, an organization of criminal justice professionals who bear personal witness to the wasteful futility and harms of our current drug.