The federal government’s failure to find any positive use for marijuana

Drug Policy Question of the Week – 5-19-10

As answered by Mary Jane Borden, Editor of Drug War Facts for the Drug Truth Network on 5-19-10.

Question of the Week: Why has the federal government failed to find any positive use for marijuana?

Let’s say that it did, but it didn’t.

In his 1998 ruling called “In the Matter of Marijuana Rescheduling Petition” the DEA’s Administrative Law Judge Francis Young recommended,

“that the Administrator [of the DEA] conclude that the marijuana plant considered as a whole has currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, that there is no lack of accepted safety for use of it under medical supervision and that it may lawfully be transferred from Schedule I to Schedule II.”

That ruling might suggest that the government found positive use for marijuana, but that was 20 years ago. Despite Judge Young’s ruling, marijuana still remains in the most restrictive Schedule I of the 1970 Controlled Substances Act along with heroin, LSD, and GHB.

Flash forward almost 22 years to the column “Medical Marijuana and the Law,” that appeared in the April 22, 2010 edition of the New England Journal of Medicine. This article revealed,

“Restrictive federal law and, until recently, aggressive federal law enforcement have hamstrung research and medical practice involving marijuana.”

Yet, despite federal policymakers having hamstrung research and medical practice involving marijuana, four patients continue to receive an ongoing supply of medical cannabis under the federal government’s Compassionate IND program established around the same time as Judge Young’s 1988 ruling. Further, a research review by Americans for Safe Access concluded that,

“a privately funded study of these patients confirmed that they benefited from their use of medical cannabis.”

To summarize, Judge Young appeared to find “positive use” for marijuana over 20 years ago, yet federal policymakers have “hamstrung research,” while at the same time provided an “ongoing supply” to four patients who have “benefitted from their use” of cannabis.

And of course, you can also find facts concerning medical marijuana like these from the Congressional Research Service at Drug War Facts in the Medical Marijuana Chapter.