Monday, May 02, 2016

not just harry anslinger, nixonian racism and bias put marijuana criminalization on steroids...,


WaPo |  Marijuana’s strict scheduling emerges from the cultural and racial apathy felt by Richard Nixon, the activist president who signed the Controlled Substances Act into law. Nixon’s aides suggested the war on marijuana was racially motivated, and Oval Office tapes highlight his contempt for the counterculture movement as well as racial minorities.
 
The tapes also make it clear that Nixon wanted to link marijuana use and its negative effects to two groups who he held in contempt: African Americans and hippies. Nixon even appointed a commission to look into the ills of marijuana — the Shafer Commission. When the group issued its report entitled, “Marihuana: A Signal of Misunderstanding,” which explained that marijuana was not as dangerous or addictive as it had widely been perceived, Nixon called his handpicked chairman, former Republican Pennsylvania governor Ray Shafer, into the Oval Office to be chastised.

So, while marijuana’s placement in Schedule I was not a result of deep scientific expertise, that does not mean that the CSA is to blame for the continuing policy problems. The CSA has avenues to correct error or compensate for new information or data. Rescheduling is one such remedy. Under administrative rescheduling, the attorney general asks the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Food and Drug Administration to examine whether a substance is properly scheduled. The attorney general takes those recommendations and ultimately makes a determination. If a substance is determined to be improperly scheduled, a rulemaking process commences that ultimately reschedules the substance.

That the rescheduling process exists means that the architects of the CSA understood the need for legal flexibility and thought that avenues for revision should be built into the law. However, due to cultural biases and stigma that have been cemented into society, science and bureaucracy, those avenues have largely failed marijuana. The nearly century-long institutional effort by the U.S. government to paint marijuana as anathema to society, in all forms and under all circumstances, has been devastatingly successful.

How has that effort played out? Beyond promoting propaganda that stoked public, congressional and media fears of marijuana, the government also decided that it was of greater interest to fund research that focused on marijuana’s addictive properties rather than its possible medical efficacy. The government stifled the ability of the scientific community to build knowledge and expertise in as robust a way as research has explored the efficacy of other controlled substances, even as research came to discover the endocannabinoid system and developed an understanding of how cannabinoids impacted certain human systems and cellular processes.

The federal government set up a DEA-mandated monopoly through the National Institutes on Drug Abuse for the growth of research grade marijuana — not for all Schedule I drugs, just marijuana. For decades, the supply from that monopoly was often insufficient to meet clinical researchers’ needs. Until recently, all marijuana research proposals needed to go through an additional, unique review by the Public Health Service that added a bureaucratic layer, hindering research.