Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Science Versus Government—Part 1

OK, we’ve got the Controlled Substances Act, and it’s not likely that it will be going away any time soon. Fair enough (not really, that’s just a figure of speech). So why can’t we make the government abide by it to the same degree that they insist we citizens must? Our government officials work for us after all. They should be held to the same, if not higher, standards expected of plain old John Q. Public.

What I’m talking about here is Part B – Authority to Control; Standards and Schedules (of the Controlled Substances Act), which states how substances are to be classified:

The Attorney General shall consider the following factors with respect to each drug or other substance proposed to be controlled or removed from the schedules:

  1. Its actual or relative potential for abuse.
  2. Scientific evidence of its pharmacological effect, if known.
  3. The state of current scientific knowledge regarding the drug or other substance.
  4. Its history and current pattern of abuse.
  5. The scope, duration, and significance of abuse.
  6. What, if any, risk there is to the public health.
  7. Its psychic or physiological dependence liability.
  8. Whether the substance is an immediate precursor of a substance already controlled under this subchapter.

Those are the criteria that are supposed to be used in classifying controlled substances. How substances fit these criteria is supposed to be based on scientific and medical evaluation. So if we look at the findings of some of the major studies of marijuana, many commissioned by our government, we should be able to understand why it is a Schedule I substance (not safe, high potential for abuse, no medical value). Assuming of course that our Attorney General is doing his job.

The La Guardia Report (1944) was commissioned by the mayor of New York in response to anti-marijuana propaganda of the 1930s. Its relevant findings include:

  • The practice of smoking marihuana does not lead to addiction in the medical sense of the word.
  • The use of marihuana does not lead to morphine or heroin or cocaine addiction.
  • Marihuana is not the determining factor in the commission of major crimes.
  • Juvenile delinquency is not associated with the practice of smoking marihuana.
  • The publicity concerning the catastrophic effects of marihuana smoking in New York City is unfounded

The Consumer’s Union Report (1972) is a comprehensive, landmark study of the entire drug issue. Its relevant recommendations include:

  • Stop emphasizing measures designed to keep drugs away from people.
  • Stop publicizing the horrors of the “drug menace.”
  • Stop increasing the damage done by drugs.
  • Stop misclassifying drugs.
  • Stop viewing the drug problem as primarily a national problem, to be solved on a national scale.
  • Stop pursuing the goal of stamping out illicit drug use.
  • The immediate repeal of all federal laws governing the growing, processing, transportation, sale, possession, and use of marijuana.
  • That each of the fifty states similarly repeal its existing marijuana laws and pass new laws legalizing the cultivation, processing, and orderly marketing of marijuana-subject to appropriate regulations.
  • An immediate end to imprisonment as a punishment for marijuana possession and for furnishing marijuana to friends.
To be continued…

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