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The DEA’s Near-Century Old Crusade Against Cannabis Medicine

In our latest article, we discuss the DEA’s near-century old crusade against cannabis, its absurd classification of it as a schedule 1 drug, and what is being done to push back against this.

Jason SanderJason Sander · Jan. 15, 2021 · 6 min read
The DEA’s Near-Century Old Crusade Against Cannabis Medicine

For almost 100 years, federal agencies have been doing everything in their power to demonize cannabis medicine. Arguably the worst of these has been the DEA. Here, we outline some of the absurd things the agency has done, and how their actions continue to harm the American people almost a century since their inception.

We’ve covered how the DEA got their start in our article called “A Brief History of Cannabis Prohibition in the United States.” Here, we will discuss how the schedule 1 classification of cannabis is not only arbitrary, but it’s destructive to families of those caught with the plant, businesses operating legally in their state, and are in full compliance. Additionally, schedule 1 classification and prevents access for patients as well as for patients who truly need the medicine.

Cannabis Should Not Be Classified As A Schedule 1 Drug

Schedule 1 drugs, according to the classification, “are the most dangerous drugs of all the drug schedules with potentially severe psychological or physical dependence,” according to the DEA’s website. What’s just as bad, if not worse, is that schedule 1 drugs have “no currently accepted medical value.” Another drug that is also currently classified as schedule 1 is heroin. Even the staunchest of prohibitionists can at least admit that cannabis has some medical value. The schedule 1 classification of cannabis has been challenged many times, and every time somehow, it’s not reclassified.

The DEA’s Classification Of Cannabis Is Constantly Challenged

In May of this year, scientific researchers and military veterans filed a lawsuit. The lawsuit was spearheaded by a petition from The Scottsdale Research Institute (SRI). The researchers filed the lawsuit in the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The suit was also signed by veterans and members of the organizations the Battlefield Foundation and Field to Healed. The lawsuit challenged previous requests to reschedule cannabis, stating that scheduling standards are arbitrary and potentially unconstitutional.

Rescheduling requests have been denied by DEA officials for years. The main reason the agency denies these requests is that they claim cannabis doesn’t meet its five criteria to be classified as a therapeutic substance. This criteria includes the ability of the drug to be reproduced, controlled studies that establish safety and efficacy, and if the drug is accepted by qualified experts. The lawsuits from scientific researchers and veterans and many other challenges to the DEA’s classification say that the classification is arbitrary. Lawyers of the researchers and veterans stated specifically that the classification of cannabis “has no basis in the statute, is contrary to the statutory text, structure, history, and purpose departs from the original understanding of the statute and rests on flawed and outdated case law.”

Another reason for the denial to reclassify cannabis is that there is a “lack of accepted safety for use of marijuana under medical supervision”. Not only is this completely unfounded and false, but it’s yet another arbitrary reason that the DEA continues to trot out to justify the classification of cannabis. Officials at the agency have asked federal courts many times to reject cases requesting a review of their decision not to reclassify the federal law surrounding cannabis. If there is truly a lack of accepted safety for use of cannabis under medical supervision, it’s more than likely because medical studies are prevented. These medical studies and much-needed research is mostly due to the restrictions placed on the plant medicine precisely because of federal agencies like the DEA. It’s a ridiculous conundrum that has been challenged for years.

Federally Funded Cannabis Research

For far too many years, the college of Ole Miss has been the only organization with a federal license to grow and cannabis for research. In December of 2018, Ole Miss celebrated” 50 years of federally funded cannabis. Growing what many researchers not affiliated with the University of Mississippi see as a mediocre product and failing to produce any significant studies that impact federal policy is not something to celebrate, in my opinion. It was found in April of 2020 that the U.S.’s cannabis research policy violated International Law for decades. The lawsuit put forth against the DEA from scientific researchers uncovered an international document that was unjustly used to delay licensing of cannabis research. It was outlined in a memo from the researchers’ attorneys:

“While DEA focuses on its view of the broader purposes of the treaty’s requirements, the Single Convention requires the United States to adopt specific, listed controls if it licenses cannabis cultivation,” the memo reads.

In August of 2019, researchers filed requests to compel the DEA to process the applications filed to grow cannabis for research purposes. The federal agency began accepting applications for cannabis research in 2016 but hasn’t acted on them. Why did it take so long for the Department of Justice to act on this? In September of 2019, the DEA requested 3.2 million grams of legal cannabis be grown in 2020. The cannabis was intended for “scientific studies investigating the effects of the plant.” What was done with those 7 pounds the DEA requested? What further evidence is needed? These are questions cannabis advocates have been rightly asking for decades.

There were 33 applications the DEA was sitting on as of summer 2019, intending to develop safe products that are effective for cannabis patients and consumers. The DEA finally acted on this just recently in December 2020, issuing a long-awaited set of rules for researchers to obtain licenses to grow. The response finally coming from the DEA is likely due to the recent passing of bills like the Medical Marijuana Research Act from both Congress and the Senate to research cannabis. More on the impact of these historic cannabis bills later in this article.

Why the DEA’s Classification of Cannabis Hurts Americans

At this point, the DEA’s Schedule 1 classification of cannabis hurts Americans, and it has for many years. Military veterans are particularly harmed by the schedule 1 classification of cannabis because the Veteran’s Association will not prescribe them the plant medicine due to the schedule 1 nature and the DEA’s continued unfounded stance. Veterans have been protesting and speaking out against this for years, with one of the most notable protests coming when they dumped hundreds of pill bottles outside of the White House in 2015. The pill bottles were cleaned up, but the DEA’s absurd schedule classification 1 still has yet to be. Many former law enforcement officers oppose prohibition, such as those with the organization Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP).

In addition to the DEA’s schedule 1 classification hurting military veterans, it hurts American civilians as well. Parents of children with conditions that can be helped by medical cannabis have been forced to move to states where they can legally obtain the medicine. Millions of Americans have unjustly been arrested for possessing a plant. The people are clearly against this, according to polls. Nearly 70 percent of Americans now favor legalization and this number will likely increase if polls are conducted in the 2022 election season.

Historic Cannabis Reform in 2020

While 2020 has been an awful year in many ways, it was a good one for cannabis reform - particularly around the time of the election. Congress passed the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act as well as the Medical Marijuana Research Act. The passing of these bills as well as the advancement with legalization in states like South Dakota point to a fundamental shift in the way the American people view cannabis medicine. Hopefully, we see some more real change to the antiquated war on cannabis, including DEA’s outdated and absurd classification of the plant medicine as a schedule 1 drug.


HashDash - Education for Today’s Conscious Cannabis Consumer

We hope you found value in our content on the DEA’s crusade against cannabis. Be sure to check back to our blog often, because we post fresh content every week! Connect with us on social media: @hashdash.com on all platforms. We’ve got a ton of awesome cannabis-related content planned for 2021, and that’s not even to mention launching our matching platform. We don’t make any money from these products, we just love using them! HashDash is building a community and helping to educate the cannabis consumer of the future.

Here at HashDash, we are compiling an entire information database that will continue to answer your questions regarding all things cannabis, as well as where to find the best dispensaries in your area. Be sure to sign up for HashDash if you haven’t already to discover your cannabis matches. As always, thanks for reading, and happy consuming!

Jason Sander
Jason SanderJason is a versatile writer and marketer with over ten combined years of experience working with clients in various industries. He couples this expertise with six years of writing for the cannabis sector as well as a passion for the business side, and the science behind the plant medicine.




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