Reece: It’s Time to End America’s Federal Prohibition of Marijuana

Davan Reece, Staff Writer

On Tuesday, November 6, Americans all across the country voted in the 2018 Midterm Elections. An abundant amount of incumbents, political newcomers and off-the-wall candidates vied for a seat at one of the biggest tables in the world: The U.S. Congress.

The 2018 Midterms proved historic for many reasons, but the biggest changes came as Michigan legalized the use of recreational marijuana and two more states, Missouri and Utah, legalized the use of medical marijuana. Americans are starting the push to end the disastrous war on marijuana.

These states join the 30 others that have legalized marijuana in some form or another, be it recreational or medical. According to a Pew Research Center poll, 62 percent of Americans now support legalizing marijuana, so why did the Trump administration effectively revamp the war on cannabis?

While marijuana may be legal at state levels, the distribution, possession, cultivation and use of marijuana is prohibited on a federal level. According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, cannabis is listed as a Schedule I drug, meaning it has “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” Other Schedule I drugs include heroin, LSD and ecstasy. Schedule I drugs are considered the worst of the worst in terms of narcotics.

This means that according to the U.S. government, weed is more dangerous than cocaine, methamphetamine and oxycodone, which are labeled as a Schedule II.

Of course, the assertion that marijuana has no health benefits is ludicrous, considering the outstanding amount of research done into the benefits, but the federal government chooses to ignore them.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), despite legalization in many states, marijuana is unsafe due to the potential of abuse and lung cancer, though substances such as cigarettes and alcohol can pose an even greater risk of these issues.

The CDC and DEA both claim that they do not recognize marijuana as a medicinal product. However, there are numerous studies discussing the health benefits of cannabis and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), a crucial chemical. Dr. Peter Grinspoon of Harvard Medical School says in his blog post on Harvard Health Publishing that marijuana is “quite effective for the chronic pain that plagues millions of Americans.”

“In particular, marijuana appears to ease the pain of multiple sclerosis and nerve pain in general,” Grinspoon says. Grinspoon also asserts that marijuana can help with other nervous diseases such as tremors caused by Parkinson’s disease. Marijuana has also been shown to treat endometriosis, interstitial cystitis and PTSD. 

Even the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), a federal-government research institute, has a list of the health benefits associated with marijuana. “It may be useful in reducing pain and inflammation, controlling epileptic seizures and possibly even treating mental illness and addictions.”

Marijuana could potentially be used to kill cancer cells when paired with radiation. The NIDA said that “Research in mice showed that treatment with purified extracts of THC and CBD, when used with radiation, increased the cancer-killing effects of the radiation.”

The NIDA goes even further by acknowledging studies that show that the legalization of medical marijuana decreases opioid prescription addiction and overdoses. “NIDA is funding additional studies to determine the link between medical marijuana use and the use or misuse of opioids for specific types of pain and also its possible role for treatment of opioid use disorder.”

Considering the Trump Administration’s “commitment” to fighting the opioid epidemic, one might think that the government would be more inclined to look into the use of medical marijuana.

In 2013, CNN reported on the story of Charlotte Figi, a young girl living with Dravet Syndrome, also known as myoclonic epilepsy of infancy. Her health was deteriorating, which caused her to lose the ability to walk, talk and eat. Eventually, Charlotte was having 300 grand mal seizures every week.

When Charlotte’s family ran out of options, they turned to cannabis oil. After a short trial period, Charlotte’s epileptic episodes fell exponentially. Charlotte now takes a dose of cannabis oil twice daily and only experiences seizures two to three times a month. She has regained her mobility and appetite.

Charlotte’s cannabis oil does not contain THC, which is the active ingredient that makes a user feel “high.” These drugs should be legalized and be administered at a doctor’s discretion, along with medical marijuana that contains does THC and is used to treat illness relating to pain.

Recreational use is a slightly different story. Recreational marijuana should be legalized at the age of 25, or when the prefrontal cortex, also known as the ‘rational’ part of the brain, is fully developed.

Nevertheless, America does not seem so keen on federally legalizing the plant.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions had a history with harsh sentencing for possession of marijuana and put numerous policies in place to fight the use of the drug. Sessions supported harsh sentences for low-level drug crimes, such as possession, which has been proven to directly influence the issue of mass incarceration.

Because of these senseless policies, marijuana-related arrests have surpassed arrests of all violent crimes combined. According to the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch, 574,641 arrests were made for possession of small amounts of marijuana, while 505,681 arrest were made for violent crime, including murder, rape and assault, in 2015.

However, Jeff Sessions has just been removed as Attorney General, opening a pathway for possible federal legalization.

The fact of the matter is that America’s federal prohibition of marijuana is a massive failure. Their complete disregard to scientific studies and handling of the “epidemic” is abhorrent. If Americans really want to change the laws as the studies suggest, there is no better time than now.