In June, DEA chief Michelle Leonhart gave us the now infamous “all illegal drugs are bad” m’kay, in answer to Representative Jared Polis’ question whether marijuana is as dangerous as Heroin. Leonhart’s answers were evasive and obtuse; that heroin is more dangerous than pot is a common understanding, and for her to sit there and try and equate the two bordered on offensive. This is indicative of the status quo, the more people ask why is cannabis prohibited, the more the reply is an arrogant, “cuz”
This merely continues a long tradition of the government trying to prove it has just cause to wage a drug war, but coming up with no real evidence to back their claims. When Nixon called for the Shafer Commission to give him empirical proof about the dangers of cannabis use, and why prohibition is necessary. They came back with a report that concluded: cannabis use had no significant dangers associated with it, and they recommended a policy of decriminalization.
[T]he criminal law is too harsh a tool to apply to personal possession even in the effort to discourage use. It implies an overwhelming indictment of the behavior which we believe is not appropriate. The actual and potential harm of use of the drug is not great enough to justify intrusion by the criminal law into private behavior, a step which our society takes only ‘with the greatest reluctance.
This didn’t fit the narrative Nixon was spinning, so the recommendations of the report were never implemented, and it met with a great deal of resistance. Nixon went on to launch the Drug War, declaring “we will wage an all-out war on drugs”. A war that more and more is being revealed to be a disastrous failure, with millions having been imprisoned and hundreds thousands dead.
Not the first time governments have asked for scientific basis in order to prohibit one of humanities oldest products, and have been disappointed that the experts don’t agree with the prohibition model in regards to cannabis. The Indian Hemp Drugs Commission, a 3000 plus page tome, reached the same conclusions the Shafer Commission would later reach. That in all but the rare and extreme cases, there is virtually no harm from the moderate, even habitual, use of cannabis. Both further concluded that the drugs use had near zero effect on society and tended to make its users less violent.
Now just days after Leonhart’s tipsy toeing of the government line on cannabis, yet another study comes out contradicting marijuana’s placement in schedule one of the Controlled substances Act. Drugs in Schedule I of the act are to be ones that have a high risk of addiction and abuse, they are also to have no accepted medical use. A new study released in the government sponsored open Neurology Journal, came to a very different conclusion when it comes to marijuana’s potential medicinal benefits. The report, Medical Marijuana: Clearing Away the Smoke, concluded: “Based on evidence currently available the Schedule I classification is not tenable; it is not accurate that cannabis has no medical value, or that information on safety is lacking.”
So yet again, the government finances a study that proves its own policy on cannabis is wrong. Lacking scientific reasoning, the only argument left for the continued prohibition and placement of cannabis as a Schedule I drug comes down to: “Because we say so”.