Locked Up

Reclassifying marijuana as a Schedule 2 drug would come with some positives—but could lead to a train wreck

Here we go again with the schedules.

Late last month, Colorado, which has had medical marijuana on the books since voters passed it in 2000, jumped on the bandwagon with Vermont, Washington and Rhode Island to ask the federal government to reclassify marijuana as a Schedule 2 drug. (See "Off Schedule," Dec. 8.) On the surface, reclassification sounds great.

Under current federal law, marijuana is a Schedule 1 drug, which means the Great Nation doesn't recognize any medical benefits whatsoever. It's treated the same as heroin and mescaline and psilocybin.

That sucks.

Reclassifying marijuana would be a de facto recognition of the medical benefit of cannabis. It would mean that after all these years, the bureaucrats had finally caught up with the doctors and realized that cannabis can help people.

Unfortunately, that sucks, too.

Colorado asked for reclassification because it was required by a state law passed in 2010. It was a minor provision in one of two laws creating a broad set of MMJ regulations. One law creates a licensing system for operators and employees of grow operations, dispensaries and makers of edibles. It requires background checks and good moral character, and forbids unfair business practices. It reduces the fee for an MMJ card from $90 to $35.

That doesn't suck.

The second law requires doctors to actually see patients before they recommend MMJ and to be available for follow-up care once they do. It requires them to discuss patients' medical conditions before recommending MMJ. It forbids doctors from taking gifts or other remuneration from cannabis providers or having any economic interest in a company that distributes or provides MMJ.

That also doesn't suck.

The Colorado regulations make sense for numerous reasons. We need to keep shysters and dope-dealers out of the business, even though I have known a few dope dealers in my time, and most of them seemed like pretty decent people. Certainly, many of them would serve the medical community better than drug-company reps, who crisscross the nation pouring lavish gifts on doctors and hospital administrators, padding their pockets (and the doctors' pockets) with your money and driving the cost of medication through the roof.

But pot dealers don't really fit into the medical paradigm, the key word there being "medical."

We also need regulation to stave off federal raids. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder recently told Congress that his agency isn't likely to prosecute MMJ facilities in states with strong regulations. California, where the threat of raids has closed hundreds of dispensaries in recent months, has almost no regulations. But Arizona has all kinds of rules and regulations and paragraphs and subsections to make everything dovetail just right. So our strong regulations could keep the feds off our back.

That wouldn't suck.

But reclassifying MMJ as a Schedule 2 drug is too high of a price to pay. Although the Colorado law might prevent the drug-company machine from influencing doctors and keep the shysters and moneychangers out of the MMJ system, federal law doesn't.

Reclassifying marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act would move your MMJ from the 5-gallon bucket in your extra bedroom to the dark recesses of the pharmacy, where it would be closely held in rooms with cameras and punch-code security systems and locks made of tempered steel. Flabby security guards with guns would prevent you from getting into the room where they keep your medication.

So now that we have four states on the medical-marijuana Schedule 2 bandwagon, I guess we can only hope the wagon doesn't become a freight train. Yes, you can move things along much quicker in a freight train. Yes, you can move a lot more goods in a train than a wagon. But if the bandwagon becomes a freight train, it might lead to a train wreck.

And that would most definitely suck.

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