After much speculation about whether the DEA would reschedule pot from Schedule I on the controlled substances list -- effectively legalizing medical marijuana -- the decision has come down to affirm the United States' prohibition on cannabis. I never expected the Obama administration to be as progressive on pot as people like presidential candidates Bernie Sanders or Gary Johnson. After all, they both support completely descheduling pot from the controlled substances list and the president is known in the legalization community for having continued marijuana raids well into 2015.
It is a shame that an administration that claims historic achievement on health care would ignore an obvious move to reinforce their dedication to the issue. All over the world and, of course, all over America sick people and their families are seeking relief from major medical conditions through marijuana. And, although research sanctioned by the US government is not as plentiful, there is plenty of research from around the world asserting pot's place as a valid medical treatment. In fact, in 25 states and the District of Columbia, medical marijuana is legal and thriving.
People need this medicine -- from cancer patients, children suffering from seizures and senior citizens dealing with pain to veterans suffering from PTSD, former NFL players suffering from brain injuries and people managing mental illnesses. I fall into that last category. While I started smoking pot recreationally, I continued to smoke into adulthood because it helps to ease the depression associated with Bipolar Disorder. I qualify for a medical marijuana card in Massachusetts, my next home. No pill or other treatment I have ever pursued has helped me with depression as well as marijuana. Like so many people, I know medical marijuana works. But, the federal government does not see the value. The Obama administration demonstrates a serious lack of compassion by not acting to reschedule.
In Israel medical marijuana is administered in hospitals. And, the list of doctors in the United States prescribing medical marijuana is growing. On Viceland's show Weediquette, reporter Krishna Andavolu spoke with Dr. Donald Abrams, Chief of Hematology and Oncology at San Francisco General Hospital, who prescribes marijuana to cancer patients. Instead of prescribing several medications in pill form for the nausea, pain, insomnia, depression and wasting associated with cancer treatment, he can instead prescribe one medication that eases it all -- medical marijuana.
And, marijuana doesn't just ease the side effects of cancer. Earlier this year the National Cancer Institute released research proving that cannabis kills cancer cells. And, while they have not gone as far as to recommend pot as a treatment for cancer, anecdotal evidence from around the world suggests that many people have been successful easing their cancer with marijuana. Given the White House's dedication to finding a cure for cancer through its Cancer Moonshot initiative, you would think they would be more interested in US government backed research proving that marijuana kills cancer cells.
One reason the federal government should reschedule or deschedule pot on the controlled substances list is to clear up the ambiguity in the law between states that have legalized and federal law. States are deciding how they want to treat marijuana and the federal government does not have the authority to tell them they can not legalize. There is no constitutional amendment granting the federal government that authority. Much like the United States amended the Constitution to prohibit alcohol, the federal government needs a constitutional amendment to prohibit marijuana. Therefore, the federal government should get out of the way on marijuana and leave the issue to the states.
Along with the announcement that the federal government will continue prohibition, the administration also announced that it will allow a wider range of places to conduct research into the medicinal benefits of marijuana. Previously only the University of Mississippi was allowed to conduct marijuana research legally. I hope this move is seen as encouragement for the next administration to take progressive action on cannabis. It is clear that the Obama administration does not have a taste for leadership in this area. As an admitted user and father of someone who has tried pot, I would think the president would have more sympathy and compassion for people seeking health care treatment through medical marijuana.