Off Schedule 

A move by two governors to reclassify marijuana for medical use does not impress J.M.

I am not a huge fan of schedules, as my editors can attest.

Schedules by their nature restrict and squeeze and coerce us, sometimes in uncomfortable ways that we didn't really think about when we penciled in the appointments. I avoid them when I can.

So when two governors—Christine Gregoire of Washington, and Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island—petitioned the Drug Enforcement Administration on Nov. 30 to move marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule II under the Controlled Substances Act, I cringed a little.

The governors cite growing scientific evidence that pot doesn't deserve to rub elbows with heroin, LSD and ecstasy, and that it should be allowed in pharmacies by prescription like methamphetamine and cocaine. Yes, you can legally get a prescription for those Schedule II drugs.

I don't disagree with the reasons why they want marijuana rescheduled. I'm just not so sure it's the right move in the scheme of things.

The Controlled Substances Act was created in 1970 to do exactly what is says—control substances. The law divides drugs into five categories with varying degrees of regulation and control.

Schedule I was reserved for drugs with no medical use, including pot and peyote. Drugs in Schedules II-V can be prescribed by doctors and dispensed by pharmacies. Schedule II includes Dilaudid, OxyContin, Demerol, cocaine (which is approved as a topical anesthetic) and methamphetamine (which is available under the brand name Desoxyn to treat obesity and ADHD).

There are basically three criteria for Schedule I: lack of medical use, lack of medical safety and high potential for abuse. The governors cite evidence pot has medical value and argue that it has a low potential for abuse compared to other Schedule II drugs. They cite a shift in the medical community since a 2006 federal review.

In 2008, the American College of Physicians urged consideration of moving marijuana from Schedule I. In 2009, the American Medical Association followed suit. It's time to look at marijuana anew, the governors say.

This isn't the first time smart people have tried to bump marijuana off Schedule I.

In 1972, just two years after the Controlled Substances Act took effect, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) tried. That case eventually went to court and NORML was denied in 1994. Jon Gettman, a former NORML president, asked again in 1995. It took until 2001 for the feds to reject that plea.

In 2002, Gettman formed the Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis for yet another attempt. The rejection of that petition this past June sparked the governors' try.

The rejection was based on medical science from 2006, and the governors think new science refutes the finding that there is no medical use for pot. Doctors in 16 states and the District of Columbia are successfully and effectively treating a broad spectrum of illnesses with it.

This latest attempt seems a little weightier, since there are chief executives involved. There's a picture of George Washington on the letterhead, for god's sake. That might carry a little more heft than NORML, which conjures images of aging hippies and the days of Cheech and Chong. Dave's not here, man. So maybe the governors have a better chance.

But I think it's a bad idea. I don't really want to need to get marijuana from a pharmacy. I don't want to need to make doctor appointments or fill prescriptions. I don't want the Great American Drug Machine involved in my medication, so I don't want it on Schedule I or II or IV or V.

I would rather just grow my own. On my own schedule.

More by J.M. Smith

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