The DEA Is the Wrong Group of Creeps to Be Classifying Marijuana

Almost any one of your best friends is better qualified.

Wednesday in non-news, the Internet baited clicks with something that has not yet happened: “The DEA Will Soon Decide if It Will Reschedule Marijuana.”

The headlines were grafted off a Washington Post report on a lengthy memo sent to unspecified lawmakers from big cheeses at the Department of Health and Human Services, the Office of National Drug Control Policy, and the Drug Enforcement Administration—collectively referred to in subsequent mentions as “the DEA.”

The gist of the 25-page missive is that the DEA has given itself the arbitrary deadline of July to decide if it intends to reclassify marijuana from its current Schedule 1 categorization (alongside heroin) and place it in a less-severe pigeonhole (alongside cocaine in Schedule 2 or buddied up to ketamine in Schedule 3). Or not.

As the Controlled Substances Act stands, marijuana is included in a class of chemicals that the U.S. government ranks among “the most dangerous drugs” and defines as having “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” Surely, anyone attracted to The KIND has seen and tired of government policy that ranks weed as comparable to or worse than junk, meth, and oxy.

Equating THC-bearing plants with smack, street speed, and highly addictive legal opiods and stimulants is insulting to anyone with simple math skills. According to the National Institutes of Health, 11,000 people died in 2014 due to heroin overdose. Since 1999, an additional 165,000 people, by count of the Centers for Disease Control, have succumbed to fatal side effects of painkillers that are prescribed in great numbers by the medical-pharmaceutical complex, at fat profit.

The number of recorded deaths from cannabis overdose in that same time span can be counted on less than one finger.

The absurdity of these grim, often-bandied statistics veils an even deeper illogic.

The DEA, like any parasitic entity, is first and foremost concerned with self-propagation. 

Image via Drhurd

By what perversion of common sense, for instance, is the Drug Enforcement Administration determining what substances are restricted and the degree of that restriction?

The DEA is in the business of enforcing drug restrictions. It operates on roughly $2 billion in federally budgeted dollars annually to enforce drug restrictions. It also pulls in untold millions through asset forfeiture—cash and prizes seized from anyone the DEA claims it suspects of violating drug restrictions.

The DEA, like any parasitic entity, is first and foremost concerned with self-propagation. The DEA’s primary objective is to ensure the continuation of its operations. People are being paid. Lucrative industries—the entire chain of supply and a private prison pipeline, for starters—are being funded. Large boys are roaring about the land, decked out in Army-man garb, piloting specialized machines of destruction, sneaking and spooking on their fellows, crashing into private residences uninvited, coercing unwitting citizens into doing their dirty work, with often fatal consequences, figuratively and literally maiming anyone who stands in their way. All that is what goes on in the United States. Globally, the DEA’s activities are criticized as being a little more freeform than here on the home front.

Nobody benefitting from throwing that party wants the fun to end anytime soon.

If arithmetic can be trusted, reducing the number of substances that need a Schedule 1 level of enforcement will decrease the required utility of the DEA. Clearly, diminishing the DEA’s justifications for its operations would go contrary to the vested interests of maintaining its powerbase. The DEA has proven itself to be nothing if not ambitious. The people who run that store have shown no signs of drawing down and eventually closing up shop.

The truth is that many people want to make money in the business of legal recreational marijuana. many, many more people want the right to get high without risk of incarceration from a federal agency.

What’s at stake in loosening federal restrictions on marijuana is bigger than ever for America’s general population (those of us who don’t profit from nonessential law-enforcement programs). Opening up access to cannabis for research and treatment could very well create a boon in therapies for scores of intractable conditions. Investors, encouraged by movement to legalize in 23 states, are poised to fund and drive this wave of medicinal development.

But let’s be honest: The implications of rescheduling or de-scheduling marijuana go far beyond ailment relief. The truth is that many people want to make money in the legitimate business of legal recreational marijuana. Beyond that, many, many more people want the right to get high without risk of harassment and incarceration from a fully militarized federal policing agency?.

Polls and usage studies tell us that literally millions of Americans choose THC to maintain and enhance their quality of life. To these millions, the DEA’s role in deciding whether or not marijuana is a Schedule 1 target for its enforcers is a fully troubling conflict of interest.

It’s like putting the weasels in charge of deciding what’s right and what’s wrong for the henhouse, and then fully empowering those weasels to go in and mop up as they see fit.