For the first time, 58% of Americans believe marijuana should be legalized, a Gallup poll finds. The New York Times, The Huffington Post, and other media outlets have come out in support of legalization. Now it seems the government is starting to catch up: 34 states have changed their marijuana laws, 23 and D.C. have passed medical marijuana laws and two have passed recreational laws, Colorado and Washington. Florida is expected to pass a medical marijuana law this November, while Oregon and Alaska may pass recreational laws.
What’s more stunning, the GOP controlled House recently passed a law defunding the DEA’s ability to raid dispensaries and other marijuana-based businesses in states where it is legal, and though the DEA has been vehement in its opposition to any loosening up on marijuana, it has recently asked the Food and Drug Administration to look into the scientific effects of marijuana on human health, and whether or not it recommends changing the drug’s classification, from a schedule I substance—one of the most dangerous substances to humans with no medical benefit, to a Schedule II under the Controlled Substances Act. But what would an FDA rescheduling of marijuana mean?
Advocates say, though a major step forward, many more legal and policy-level obstacles still stand in the way of full decriminalization on the federal level. The Marijuana Policy Project’s Morgan Fox says, “It is a good sign that the DEA is starting to walk back its policy of interfering with marijuana research and rescheduling.” The Marijuana Policy Project is an interest group whose focus is reforming marijuana laws, but Fox further states, “Unfortunately, this is a very tiny step.”
Some advocates worry that departments within the federal government will come in conflict over this issue, gumming up the process for months. But the federal government’s Schedule I designation halts progress on research. But experts think that government stalling won’t impede the process long. New studies are coming out all the time about the effects of mail order marijuana along with its medical properties and how compounds derived from cannabis can help with a variety of disorders from cancer to epilepsy, Crohn’s Disease to M.S.
The legal lines of where criminal justice ends and healthcare begins are what is at stake here. Fox says, “The safety and medical efficacy of marijuana are long-established, and the FDA has previously approved specific studies that the DEA later denied.” He continued saying, “The time has come to remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act scheduling system altogether so that states can determine their own policies and research approval can be left in the hands of agencies dedicated to science, not criminal justice.”