- Recent scientific evidence has forced the US Government
through its Justice Department agency, the Drug Enforcement Administration
(DEA), to commence legally binding procedures that will likely result in
the end of marijuana prohibition.
- On December 19th, DEA formally asked the Department of
Health and Human Services to conduct "a scientific and medical evaluation
of the available data and provide a scheduling recommendation" for
marijuana and other cannabinoid drugs. This DEA request of HHS means that
the DEA has for the first time made its own determination that sufficient
grounds exist to remove marijuana from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances
Act (CSA). Schedule I is supposed to be limited to hard drugs with addictive
propensities and with no legitimate medical usage.
- The DEA request was made in response to an administrative
petition filed July 10, 1995 by Petitioners Jon Gettman and Trans High
Corporation, publisher of High Times Magazine.
- The Petition presents evidence and argument that marijuana
and cannabinoids lack the "high potential for abuse" required
for Schedule I and Schedule II drugs under the (CSA).
- Trans-High Corporation, the publishers of High Times,
joined with Mr. Gettman in mid-1995 to provide support for the petition
during the administrative rule-making process. Petitioners are represented
by the Law Offices of Michael Kennedy, which today released a copy of a
letter from DEA notifying petitioners of the HHS referral.
- Petitioners are represented by the Law Offices of Michael
Kennedy in New York City, which today released a copy of the letter from
DEA notifying Petitioners of the HHS referral.
- According to a July 27, 1995, letter from DEA Deputy
Administrator Stephen Greene, accepting the Petition for filing:
- "The DEA shall determine within a reasonable period
of time whether there are sufficient grounds to justify removing marijuana
. . . from Schedule I . . .(S)hould DEA determine that there are sufficient
grounds, then it must request a medical and scientific recommendation from
the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services."
- Thus DEA can request the advice of HHS only after DEA's
investigation confirms that sufficient grounds exist to remove marijuana
from Schedule I. According to the CSA the findings and recommendations
of HHS with regard to scientific and medical matters are binding on DEA.
DEA has never before voluntarily referred a marijuana rescheduling petition
to HHS for binding review.
- The Gettman/High times Petition demonstrates that HHS
has never produced a finding that marijuana actually has the high potential
for abuse similar to heroin or cocaine. A high potential for abuse is required
for Schedule I treatment. Further, the legislative history of the CSA indicates
that Congress only intended for marijuana to remain in Schedule I or II
if such a finding could be produced. This Petition challenges the government
to produce such a finding (where none exists) or be legally required to
end marijuana prohibition by removing marijuana from Schedule I.
- Removal of marijuana from Schedule I will require the
federal government to sanction legal distribution of marijuana for medical
uses, research and prescriptions and adopt a regulatory rather than a prohibitory
model for marijuana. The end of prohibition and the advent of regulation
will represent a radical change in the legal status of marijuana in the
- The Petition argues that the discovery of the Cannabinoid
Receptor System, which has enabled scientists to explain the cause of marijuana's
characteristic effects, and provides a basis for making detailed distinctions
among the biological effects of marijuana and other drugs. These distinctions
provide the scientific basis for demonstrating that marijuana does not
have the same high potential for abuse as other Schedule I or II drugs.
- DEA reversal of position
- The DEA to HHS referral represents a historic turn-around
- Gettman first asked DEA to refer marijuana to HHS for
the appropriate scientific and medical evaluation back in October of 1994.
In March 1995, in a letter to Gettman's congressman, DEA claimed that "unless
a substance has an accepted medical use in the United States, in can only
be placed in Schedule I." By letter dated April 21, 1995, DEA Administrator
Thomas Constantine stated that DEA was:
- "unaware of any new scientific studies of marijuana
that would lead us to re-evaluate its classification at this time . . .
If Mr. Gettman has access to scientific data concerning marijuana which
he wishes to bring to our attention, we will be pleased to consider it,
should he care to share the documentation with us."
- The Gettman/High Times Petition provided the specific
scientific documentation that caused the DEA to reverse itself and to acknowledge
for the first time ever that a sufficient scientific basis exists for reclassification
of marijuana out of Schedule I
- Jon Gettman served as National Director of the National
Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) from 1986 to 1989,
and has provided articles and columns for High Times since 1985. Gettman
is currently working on his doctorate in public policy and regional economic
development at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.
- Mr. Gettman issued the following statement:
- "People are sent to jail every day because of mistaken
assumptions about the abuse potential of marijuana, assumptions that have
never been scientifically proved. DEA's recognition of this is a welcome
and important step, and in many respects recognition of the importance
of the scientific work of individuals such as Allyn Howlett, William Devane,
Miles Herkenham, Leo Hollister, Denise Kandel, Norman Zinberg, Lester Grinspoon
and other scientists on whose work my petition rests. But this is also
recognition that in many respects marijuana prohibition has been a cruel
hoax on the American people. People think marijuana is in Schedule I for
scientific reasons, and that these reasons legitimize prohibition, arrests
and prison terms. DEA has just acknowledged that there is a lot of scientific
knowledge they haven't considered when they justify marijuana's Schedule
I status. In other words, DEA has presented a distorted picture of marijuana
to government officials and to the public. I hope our petition will contribute
to resolving some of the confusion created by these distortions."
- High Times Magazine, by its Editor in Chief, Peter Gorman,
issued the following statement:
- "High Times is thrilled that the DEA has acknowledged
that there was never sufficient reason to place cannabis in Schedule I
of the CSA, and proud that the petition originated with Jon Gettman's two
part series on "Marijuana and the Brain" which appeared in our
pages in March and July 1995. We hope that journalists from all media who
have covered the War on Drugs will recognize the importance of the DEA's
admission regarding the scheduling of cannabis -- which could potentially
result in the end of prohibition of this benign and medically helpful herb
-- and will report it with the same vigor with which they have reported
other DEA findings. High Times looks forward to the results of the Department
of Health and human Services' investigation of the scientific and medical
data regarding cannabis with great anticipation."
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