“Reschedule cannabis!” roar the masses. And I have to respectfully disagree. The entire scheduling system is fundamentally flawed and needs to go.
From the DEA’s website:
Schedule I drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Some examples of Schedule I drugs are: heroin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), marijuana (cannabis), 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (ecstasy), methaqualone, and peyote.
Most people focus on how ridiculous it is to lump heroin, LSD, and cannabis into the same category. That’s as obvious as saying we shouldn’t use the same regulations for baseball gloves, avocados, and uranium enrichment.
Let’s get some more really obvious stuff out of the way: most, if not all, of these substances have well-documented medical use.
I don’t need to tell you about medical marijuana, right?
And psychedelics? How many studies do we need showing their therapeutic value to treat depression, anxiety, PTSD, addiction, etc., etc., etc.?
But then we come to that go-to sticking point. With raised arms swinging wildly, an exclamation is heard: “But what about heroin??”
Bernie Sanders recently chimed in a tweet reinforcing this mentality:
No rational person really believes marijuana should be a Schedule 1 drug next to killer drugs like heroin. And yet that’s how it’s treated.— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) February 24, 2017
You got part of it right, Bernie. Marijuana and heroin should not be treated the same. Marijuana certainly should not be a schedule I drug.
And neither should heroin.
Does heroin have additional risks? Sure does. But guess what? It also absolutely has medical use and can be utilized safely. Amazingly, most people in the US are completely oblivious that heroin is medically prescribed in the UK. They just call it “diamorphine.”
Labeling heroin a “killer drug” that belongs in schedule I is the kind of rhetoric that actually prevents harm reduction measures -- like safe consumption sites -- from being implemented. And it perpetuates the atrocities of the War on Drugs.
Sending people to jail because of a list that’s medically and scientifically inaccurate is just wrong. All drugs have benefits and risks, and those benefits and risks depend on how the substance is used.
Reducing drug policy down to defining “good” substances and “bad” substances is missing the entire fucking point. Rather, we should focus on how to maximize the benefits and how to minimize the harms of substances. And every substance is different.
We know that Schedule I drugs indeed have medical use, and we shouldn’t have to wait for the DEA and FDA to approve them in order to choose how to treat ourselves.
As a thought experiment, let’s pretend that the DEA rescheduled and the FDA approved your medicine of choice tonight.
But what about the alternative frameworks that exist for healing? There are more ways to interact with medicine than capsules from your friendly neighborhood pharmaceutical company. What about traditional indigenous uses of plant medicine? The idea of the state regulating shamanism makes me cringe.
Don’t get me wrong. By all means, develop those FDA-approved containers, and give more people access to the healing they need in a way that makes them comfortable. I'm thrilled about all the recent research getting MDMA and psilocybin FDA-approved. But this should not be considered the only “valid” paradigm for healing under threat of prison.
And let’s be honest here. We don’t just use drugs as medicine. We don’t drink coffee by morning and beer by evening because the FDA and DEA deemed them to have “accepted medical use.”
We drink caffeine because it wakes us up, and we drink alcohol because we enjoy the buzz. We use these substances for their non-medical effects. Dare I say, we like getting high, and this is nothing to be ashamed of. We do not have to provide any further justification.
We are selling ourselves short if we justify our right to use a substance solely based on a demonstrated FDA-approved medical value.
Choice is a valid reason to do something.
Isn’t that the very essence of freedom?
Mike Margolies is Expansion Director at Psymposia