cannabis
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This past summer, after giving tantalizing clues to the public about the possibility of rescheduling cannabis, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) decided to cling to lunacy by keeping the plant as a Schedule 1 drug with “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”

While making this decision – in complete denial of the proven medical benefits of cannabis and the fact that 25 states acknowledge this – the DEA gathered advice from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Early indications were that the FDA had softened its stance on cannabis, which led to some optimism, but this may have been a charade.

According to documents that Vice News obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the FDA apparently still holds some rather asinine views on cannabis that seem to be relics of the Reefer Madness days.

Vice summarizes:

“The FDA listed nine common effects of marijuana, including “increased merriment and appetite,” “heightened imagination,” “disorganized thinking,” “illusions, delusions, and hallucinations,” and “agitation, paranoia, confusion, drowsiness, and panic attacks, which are most common in experienced or high-dosed users.”

Firstly, aren’t merriment and imagination good things?

Increasing merriment with cannabis is a treatment for psychological ailments such as depression, and far safer than prescription pills such as SSRIs that have dangerous and deadly side effects.

Increasing appetite with cannabis is a widely recognized treatment for a number of conditions, such as cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy and radiation.

Heightening the imagination is of course a valuable practice for creative people such as artists and writers, many of whom use cannabis for that very purpose. An Australian museum recently defended one of its artists who called for cannabis to be carefully used to stimulate creativity in teenagers.

Secondly, responsible cannabis users are unlikely to experience the other “bad effects.” Maybe that first time you got high and did too much, you got agitated or paranoid, but these are altogether uncommon effects.

If we want to talk about side effects that actually do ruin lives and lead to injury or death, look no further than the vast number of prescription pills pushed by Big Pharma, beginning with opioids. Or alcohol-related deaths which amount to 88,000 every year, and the fact that alcohol fuels aggression.

The FDA also uses a dubious study of squirrel monkeys in its claim that cannabis is addictive.

“The FDA cited a study conducted in 2000 on squirrel monkeys that were trained to self-administer THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in weed. Researchers found that the monkeys liked to get high, and the FDA said such studies are “often useful in predicting rewarding effects in humans, and is indicative of abuse liability.”

Never mind the fact that the experiment was carried out on intelligent primates trapped in cages. Subjected to boredom and cruelty, is it any surprise they want to get high?

Interestingly, the FDA documents show that the agency actually knows cannabis is relatively safe, acknowledging that it is not known to cause cancer and there’s no link to mental illness.

They say that any addiction from cannabis is “mild” and “short-lived,” and any negative effects on the adult brain disappear after three months of abstinence.

But perhaps more importantly, the FDA admits that cannabis is not a gateway drug.

“Discussing the so-called “gateway effect” that supposedly leads pot smokers to try more dangerous drugs, the FDA stated that research does not support a “direct causal relationship between regular marijuana use and other illicit drug use.”

Those of us fighting the immoral War on Drugs already knew this to be true, as we have reported that the real gateway drug is alcohol. Even D.A.R.E. stopped calling cannabis a gateway drug.

All of this flies in the face of law enforcement and other drug war crusaders who depend on cannabis prohibition to line their pockets through civil asset forfeiture, or policing for profit. To keep extorted cash and assets pouring into their coffers, cops routinely label pot as a gateway drug that is dangerous to society, so they can prey on the populace that dares seek out cannabis for its medical benefits and increased merriment.

So remind us again, FDA, why were you on board with keeping cannabis a Schedule 1 drug?

Perhaps the reasons have nothing to do with the reasons outlined in the FOIA documents, and everything to do with the fact that the FDA’s corporate partner, the pharmaceutical industry, has recognized that cannabis legalization poses a direct threat to their profits.


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Justin Gardner is a peaceful free-thinker with a background in the biological sciences. He is interested in bringing rationality back into the national discourse, and independent journalism as a challenge to the status quo.