That's right: a lawsuit against the government to prove that Nicotine is NOT a drug. After all, it's not on the DEA's list of scheduled drugs, so what does the DEA consider it to be? Anyone who has ever smoked cigarettes know that Nicotine is a seriously addictive drug. Ever see all those commercials about stopping "the cravings"? Nicotine is one of the most addictive and dangerous drugs on the market YET it's not scheduled as a drug by the DEA. Here is the LINK< link to: http://www.usdoj.gov/dea/pubs/scheduling.html > to their chart, which lists drugs progressively from Schedule 5 (the least harmful, such as Robitussin) to Schedule 1 (the most dangerous, such as heroin, psilocybin, peyote, mescaline, GHB, etc.) These schedule 1 drugs are known to be highly addictive, generally lethal and lacking in medicinal value. And even though those things are known to be true about Nicotine, it does not exist on the DEA's drug schedule. For the record, Nicotine is lethal at 40-60mg (a cigarette provides about 1mg of Nicotine) and death occurs from paralysis of the respiratory system. Here is the DEA's criteria for drug scheduling:
In 21 USC Sec. 811c (the Factors determinative of control or removal from schedules) the Attorney General shall consider the following factors with respect to each drug or other substance proposed to be controlled or removed from the schedules:
(1) Its actual or relative potential for abuse.
(2) Scientific evidence of its pharmacological effect, if known.
(3) The state of current scientific knowledge regarding the drug or other substance.
(4) Its history and current pattern of abuse.
(5) The scope, duration, and significance of abuse.
(6) What, if any, risk there is to the public health.
(7) Its psychic or physiological dependence liability.
(8) Whether the substance is an immediate precursor of a substance already controlled under this subchapter.
Now take a closer look at the list of Schedule 1 drugs and you'll notice two substances called Nicomorphine and Nicocodeine. I wonder how those differ from Nicotine as the morphine and codeine parts alone don't exactly score low on the DEA chart. Is Nicotine an "precursor of a substance already controlled" or just sharing a prefix? I'd like to hear from the medical community on this.
Since Nicotine is currently not scheduled, the onus should be on the federal government to prove that Nicotine does not belong on that drug scheduling list. This way, if they cannot prove it should be left off, then they have no other option but to schedule it. They would then have to schedule it by means of a common criteria for all drugs. This would be a reason to reassess the entire chart and reschedule other drugs by the same criteria to bring The List into some sort of compliance with a reality based on sound medical science and reasoning, not politics, business or the status quo. Asking the government to prove the status quo is the best reality check we've got.
If Nicotine were scheduled and put into Schedule 1 where it belongs, this would have two drastic but ultimately beneficial effects. One would be that cigarettes would suddenly become illegal, as their main ingredient (and reason for existing and addicting so many people) would be outlawed as much as heroin or other Schedule 1 counterparts would. This way, smoking would drop drastically, as the biggest problem with quitting is that cigarettes are available everywhere, making it too easy to get your fix. The second effect would be the restructuring of some of the other drugs on the Scheduling list. I guarantee you that if you put THC (the active ingredient in marijuana, currently and quite unfairly a Schedule 1 listing) against the same criteria as Nicotine, they would not be in the same category at all. But the illegality of marijuana (the most widely used "illegal" drug in America) would be in certain question when judged solely by medical and scientific criteria and not politics, business & societal norms. Indeed, back in 1972, then-President Nixon completely ignored his self-appointed Shafer commission's advice that "Neither the marihuana user nor the drug itself can be said to constitute a danger to public safety" and started the long and destructive War on Drugs anyway. And if you think this is just about marijuana and nicotene, look at Schedule IV where the popular sleep aid Ambien shares a category with Valium, Xanax, Darvocet and Rohypnol. Yes, that popular date rape drug known as Roofies is no more dangerous than your sleeping medication. Or is it? And they're all still less dangerous than Schedule 3's Tylenol with Codeine and that social pariah Ketamine, or Special K. But even more dangerous than that, in Schedule 2 OxyContin, Percocet and Methamphetamine rub shoulders with Ritalin, which millions of adults and children use daily. Yes, your attention deficit drug is on par with Meth! Though according to the DEA, none are as bad for you as marijuana in Schedule 1. Imagine that.
It could all start with a simple lawsuit to make the US government defend the indefensible status quo. After all, what has changed since 1972 when the Shafer Commission recommended that "possession of marijuana for personal use no longer be an offense, [and that the] casual distribution of small amounts of marihuana for no remuneration, or insignificant remuneration no longer be an offense."? What has changed is that since then, more than 13.2 million Americans have been arrested on marijuana charges, including some 735,000 in 2000 alone (the last year for which federal data is available.) That may be one of the more unfortunate effects of the misguided War on Drugs and the mis-scheduling (or non-scheduling) of certain drugs by the DEA. Putting Nicotine to the test of scheduling could be the catalyst for long overdue changes in our national drug policy and our flawed and ultimately failed War on Drugs. And maybe with those 735,000 people a year out of the judicial and correctional systems, we'll have all the resources we need to fight terrorism, enforce immigration laws and secure our borders. Just a thought...