Saturday, March 6, 2010

Cannabis reform?

Cannabis (more commonly known as Marijuana, Weed, Cronik, Grass, etc.) is a substance that is psychoactive; it can get you high. You already knew this.

Cannabis is also a controlled substance, in the United States it falls into the most restricted category of drugs: Schedule I. You probably already knew this.

Cannabis, however, is interesting in that it is one of the very safest psychoactive agents known to man. The Merck Index lists the LD50 of THC (the active chemical in Cannabis) as 1270 mg/kg in rat subjects. That is, once a group of subject rats had been given 1270 milligrams for every kilogram of body-mass, half of those rats would have died. If this dosage is calculated for a 155 pound body mass (ie. a Person) it comes to 4 pounds of good-quality weed consumed in one sitting. Where I live, that's about $15,000 USD of marijuana. So to have a lethal overdose of Cannabis, one would have to spend the money necessary to buy a Nissan Lancer and then consume all 4-pounds before passing out. This is almost impossible. In fact there has never been a death attributed to THC toxicity.

Cannabis is also interestingly one of the least physically addicting psychoactive substances, especially those with good short-term safety. Receptors to cannabinoids are not principally found in parts of the brain that link to the so-called 'reward pathway' and therefor it is difficult to become dependent on Cannabis.

That all sounds fairly nice for a medicinal compound, or dare I say, recreational drug. So why is cannabis criminalized in the United States at the most severe level. Substances accompanying Cannabis in Schedule I include: Heroin, LSD, MDMA, etc. Methamphetamine finds itself in the the less restricted Schedule II. Hopefully this raises the question, as it did for me: How poor are the classification criteria that Cannabis is considered as illegal as Heroin?

The classification criteria for Schedule I substances in the the United States:
"The findings required for each of the schedules are as follows:

(1) Schedule I.—

(A) The drug or other substance has a high potential for abuse.

(B) The drug or other substance has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.

(C) There is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision."

So it must be shown that a substance meets all of these criteria in order to be listed on Schedule I. Let's apply the criteria to Cannabis as the government should have done (and should continue to do based on new evidence).

"(A) The drug or other substance has a high potential for abuse."

Abuse here should probably be taken to mean: "Use that has a negative effect on the user and his abilities to function in society, including detrimental effects from addiction."
There are currently very limited or rough anecdotal studies that show any physical addictiveness of Cannabis. Psychological addiction has been reported but at relatively mild levels. So this criterion is perhaps only speculatively met, at best. Compared with other substances in Schedule I it has a very low potential for abuse.

"(B) The drug or other substance has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States."

Cannabis certainly doesn't fit this criterion. It has accepted medical use in dozens of medical conditions. It's use is endorsed by such organizations as: The American Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association, The American College of Physicians, The American Nurses Association, etc. Contentions of "no accepted medical use" are borderline denial.

The FDA and Drug Enforcement Agency apparently forget that they have an obligation to act professionally and not sit entrenched in archaic ideologies established through ignorance. It seems as if the FDA is holding up its proverbial middle-finger at the 81% of Americans who, based on easily accessible research, believe Medical Marijuana should be legal. Without getting too far into generalizations, this seems to be a prime example of government acting improperly towards its citizens... but onto letter (C)

"(C) There is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision."

This one is also just stupid. Cannabis is safer than nearly every other prescription drug known to mankind. It has no liver toxicity like almost all other drugs including Tylenol. In fact Cannabis is safer than almost all over-the-counter medications. It is many times safer than alcohol. It is safer than Tobacco. The threshold dose (minimum amount needed to achieve the desired effect) for Cannabis is roughly 1,000 times less than the lethal dose. Alcohol's 'threshold to lethal' ratio of about 6 compares laughably.

If I was forced to leave a small child in my care with an ounce or weed or a plastic bag, I'd leave the weed.
A box of Lego's or an ounce of weed?
A pack of cigarettes or an ounce of weed?
A bottle of whiskey or an ounce of weed?
A bucket of water or an ounce of weed?
I'd leave the weed with the baby over any of those. It's safer.
How safe would weed be "under medical supervision"? Probably about as safe as drinking a glass of water.

Almost meeting one of the three criteria is not particularly close to the necessary three out of three. Does the FDA have trouble reading the Schedule I criteria? Are the a branch of government in a popularly sovereignty? This isn't something that needs to be debated tirelessly. They should fix the glaring problem and move on. There are better things to do with government resources.

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