Throughout my years of involvement with some of the largest cannabis publications in the world, including my current role as a daily contributor for the Led Zeppelin of cannabis journalism – High Times — I’ve learned there is a significant amount of bullshit that is often spewed out there in the trenches of marijuana reform, all of it being smeared across the lips of every naïve member of the stoner nation who cannot help but suck on any overly-inflated headline that suggests the scourge of prohibition is near its bitter end.
There is no way you could possibly understand the frustration that courses through my veins, often to the point of bringing about a severe case of the bends, when I see a legitimate news story casually transformed into a cornucopia of untruth by those cut-rate websites that get by with making claims like “Marijuana Is Now Legal In All 50 States” and other dastardly misinterpretations of what is really going on.
But despite the fact that most of these click-bait sites struggle to gain enough of a following on social media to make them relevant news sources even if the editorial controls would decide to stop being wastes of human space and go legitimate, there is always an overly enthusiastic legion of cannabis supporters waiting on the sidelines to spread these elaborated hoaxes like a bad case of Tijuana crab lice.
One of the latest headlines to grace my Facebook newsfeed over the past couple of days is one that originated from the Santa Monica Observer indicating that the “U.S. Gov’t Will Legalize Marijuana on August 1.” The article, which was penned by staff writer Stan Greene, suggests that an anonymous lawyer for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) claims the agency will downgrade the Schedule I classification of the cannabis plant to a Schedule II on the first day of August, allowing medical marijuana to be prescribed all across the nation and distributed in major drugstores like CVS and Walgreens.
Unfortunately, even if the Observer’s story is rooted in some truth – and the DEA is actually planning to reschedule marijuana under a classification that brands it as being a drug with “some medicinal value” — this action would not legalize medical marijuana in all 50 states.
According to a recent report from the Brookings Institution, a independent research organization specializing in policy solutions, simply downgrading cannabis to a Schedule II would not give way to the immediate distribution of pharmaceutical marijuana because these products have not yet been FDA-approved – a process that “takes years and hundreds of millions (if not more) dollars in research.”
“While rescheduling will be seen by many in the reform community and among scientific researchers as a resounding victory, the reality is that, day to day, most people will never notice the difference,” the report reads.
What is true is the DEA did release a letter earlier this year stating that it was preparing to make a rescheduling announcement before the end of summer. The 25-page document, which was published in response to the demands for medical marijuana research by Senator Elizabeth Warren and seven other lawmakers, said the “DEA understands the widespread interest in the prompt resolution to these petitions and hopes to release its determination in the first half of 2016.” But the letter did not give any indication what the DEA’s determination would be.
But perhaps the most crucial aspect of all this rescheduling noise is that it would do nothing to prevent people from going to jail for weed – the only action that could free the leaf completely is if Congress were to remove it from the Controlled Substances Act altogether. So even if the DEA does make marijuana a Schedule II drug, it will not stop law enforcement officers all over the country from busting the average citizen for the possession, use, and cultivation of an herb that has been legalized for medicinal and recreational purposes in over half the nation.
Therefore, while you may start to see an influx of reports trickling into your social media feed within the coming days that claim “Medical Marijuana Is About to Be Legalized in all 50 States,” you can find solace in knowing that it’s all a bunch of horseshit.