Virginia Congressman Morgan Griffith submitted a bill to the 115th Congress today that would drastically alter the way marijuana is controlled at the Federal level.
Griffith, a Republican who has crossed the aisle in hopes of cannabis reform before, proposed H.R. 714, a bill that would reschedule cannabis on the Controlled Substances Act. Currently, marijuana is listed as a Schedule I drug, right alongside heroin in the class reserved for substances the DEA considers to have zero medicinal value and a “high potential for abuse.”
The new legislation, called the Legitimate Use of Medicinal Marijuana Act, would move marijuana down to Schedule II, according to Tom Angell of Marijuana Majority. This level of the CSA is home to fentanyl, oxycodone, methamphetamine, and cocaine. Schedule II drugs are still considered to be “dangerous” and have a “high potential for abuse,” according to the CSA.
While rescheduling cannabis down a peg is a step in the right direction, it’s still not where it should be.
In 2013, opioids like the ones listed as less harmful than marijuana accounted for 70% of the overdose fatalities in the United States. The other 30% of lethal overdoses involved benzodiazepines, like Xanax, which you can find on the CSA all the way down at Schedule IV, where the Government believes drugs have “a low potential for abuse and low risk of dependence.”
Benzodiazepines are considered difficult to overdose on by themselves but become exponentially more toxic to the human body when mixed with a drug like alcohol (not scheduled on the CSA). Alcohol and Benzodiazepines are both broken down by the same enzyme, CYP450, as a result it takes your liver twice as long to clear the drug cocktail from your body. Mixing the two drugs can have a synergistic effect, amplifying their ability to impair motor functions and constrict the respiratory system, all of which increase the risk of death.
Alcohol, the most widely abused drug in the United States, isn’t scheduled on the CSA because the DEA doesn’t consider it a controlled substance by definition.
The term “controlled substance” means a drug or other substance, or immediate precursor, included in schedule I, II, III, IV, or V of part B of this subchapter. The term does not include distilled spirits, wine, malt beverages, or tobacco, as those terms are defined or used in subtitle E of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986.
Eventually, a bill like Congressman Griffith’s will be successful in rescheduling cannabis and expanding life-altering research; we’re certainly ready for change.
Cover Image Courtesy of Allie Beckett
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