Heroin, PCP, ketamine, marijuana?
December 2, 2004 10:34 AM   Subscribe

Rescheduling marijuana: third time's the charm? Rather than hoping activist judges use the outdated notion of state's rights to allow Angel Raich to use marijuana medicinally (she claims she'd die without it), why not reclassify it as Schedule II? Or more appropriately, Schedule III? Don't hold your breath. They've been trying since 1972.
posted by mrgrimm (40 comments total)
If Big Pharma were making a 10,000% profit off marijuana like they do other drugs, Tom DeLay and Bill Frist would have it legalized tomorrow.
posted by nofundy at 11:28 AM on December 2, 2004

re: Big Pharma

The Justice Department's brief also avers that by taking cannabis instead of prescription drugs, medical users are undermining the market for legitimate pharmaceuticals.

posted by mrgrimm at 11:41 AM on December 2, 2004

The problem is that even if it were rescheduled (which is more and more likely, considering the recent increase in research, but still incredibly unlikely), it would still need to run the lenghty gauntlet of animal and human trials and the New Drug Application approval process before it could be legally brought to market. And of course there is no real financial incentive (the only incentives that count) for a Big Pharma company to make the outlay of resources for a drug that can be just as easily be grown in a closet.
posted by cosmonaught at 11:41 AM on December 2, 2004

Don't hold your breath.

Correction: Hold it for just a few seconds, then let it out through your nose.
posted by soyjoy at 11:43 AM on December 2, 2004

Phew. For a second I was worried this was another Target link.
posted by keswick at 11:58 AM on December 2, 2004

I just want my paper made from hemp. Is that too much to ask? It would reduce the need for the damn paper pulping plants that stick like hell farted and we wouldn't have so much damn perchlorate in the downstream drainage.

Plus, it makes for such a wonderful seasoning on salads. Beats a triptophan brain fog anyday.
posted by daq at 12:02 PM on December 2, 2004

daq, you are just *adorable*!

(sucks on bong)
posted by hackly_fracture at 12:16 PM on December 2, 2004

I am just so sick of pot being illegal. Though I support medical marijuana, I'm somewhat ambivalent because I think it detracts from the more fundamental argument against prohibition in general. Vioxx? 27,000 dead, not that big of a problem. Pot? Oh my god! Hide the children and get the guns. Aspirin causes more deaths per year than pot ever will. And what are they afraid of? Apparently, they don't want people to get high, but getting shit-faced drunk is fine.

Every single one of their reasons for criminalized marijuana is bullshit. Potency? It's gotten more potent because of its criminalized status. Do you think they ran beer during Prohibition? Nope, just hooch. How do you think Crack was invented? Violence? Again, simply due to being criminal. Gateway drug? They just pulled that one out of their collective ass. If it holds any credibility, it's only because drug dealers tend to stock pot since it's reliable revenue but push their harder drugs for better profit - a consequence of being illegal.

I think the biggest problem is that all interested parties are so heavily invested in the status quo. Cartels, dealers and smugglers benefit from the inflated prices of the black market. The DEA benefits from forfeiture laws. Politicians score easy points by being "hard on drugs and hard on crime." And the pharmaceutical industry has already been discussed. Meanwhile, potheads are banging their bongs and mumbling how this world sucks.
posted by effwerd at 12:19 PM on December 2, 2004

another good source of updated info on MM and the Supreme Court arguments: Hemp Evolution.

but this has to be a transcription error:

JUSTICE STEPHEN BREYER: "You know, he grows heroin, cocaine, tomatoes that are going to have genomes in them that could, at some point, lead to tomato children that will eventually affect Boston. You know, we can - oil that's never, in fact, being used, but we want an inventory of it, federally. You know, I can multiply the examples. And you can, too. So you're going to get around all those examples by saying what?"

say what? tomato children are attacking Boston?!

on preview: i agree, effwerd, that there is a bigger struggle that the MM campaign will continue to bump up against, which is why rescheduling is so important, imo. i'm just worried that it doesn't get good media.

for example, how many of us heard about this AIDS protest?

AIDs patients, cancer patients, sympathizers, *and* recreational users need to bang their bongs loud enough that people take notice.

find an article in your local newspaper about the case, and reply with an original letter that expands on some of the points in the article, or corrects any of the misinformation. it can't hurt.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:27 PM on December 2, 2004

Pot is about as dangerous as eating with a spoon and yet its illegal while alcohol and cigarettes (with long and bloodied histories of killing millions of people) are hawked everywhere.

The problem isn't the drug itself, its the archaic stereotype applied to it by the government (Reefer Madness anyone?) and Big Pharma, who is legitimately concerned that legalized pot would make alot of their highly profitable pills worthless.

Even though pot's a less damaging to the people using it, they don't care about the people, they care about stockholders and making bigger and more obscene profits.

Smoke 'em if you got 'em!
posted by fenriq at 12:53 PM on December 2, 2004

Very good link trharlan. It looks like a lot of people in the know are saying the real implications have to do more with the commerce clause than they do with pot itself.

Recently I've become more federalist. I'd love to see Raich win for that reason alone.
posted by sbutler at 1:04 PM on December 2, 2004

I've got really complicated feelings on medical marijuana, mostly because I'm a liberal who really can't find it in my heart to support it.

For starters, I don't think it's good medicine. Although I certainly believe that compounds contained within marijuana could be very effective at handling issues of pain, appetite, and nausea, I don't think that consuming these compounds in the form of burning smoke is particularly safe (for me it's akin to patients growing and smoking poppies), and I belive that long term studies of the effect of continued use of marijuana would show considerable health risks to patients when compared to other prescription medications. There have been virtually no studies on drug interactions, side-effects, and or even overall effectiveness for the patient populations and conditions it is currently being recommended to treat. anecdotal evidence is not and cannot be non-biased, placebo controlled, or statistically significant.

I also am uncomfortable with the idea of abandoning the federal systems that ensure the safety and effectiveness of medications, for something determined politically at the state level. Determining safe and effective medications by public vote seems absolutely preposterous to me. The public (me included) simply does not have the training or resources to make those kinds of decisions.

Finally, I do agree with mainstream politicians when they say that the medical marijuana movement is really a back door attempt at legalization. I've never met anybody in either the medical marijuana or hemp movement that didn't have this as an ultimate (though often separate) goal.

All that being said, I'm a strong proponent for the complete legalization of marijuana, and for that matter most other drugs. I don't smoke now, though I certainly have enjoyed more then my share in the past. I do believe that adults should be allowed to choose what they put in their bodies. And I also believe that marijuana is a very safe drug when compared to booze and cigarettes. I just don't it's worth further damaging our already incredibly screwed up healthcare system for.
posted by cosmonaught at 1:59 PM on December 2, 2004

I often get into an argument with a friend of mine about federalism (he's a clerk to a federal judge in Seattle). The good part is that in a properly functioning federalist system there are state-by-state innovations in the republican system that can be tried out on a small scale and then the other states can see how it works (the states are the "laboratory of democracy," as one of the SCOTUS cases has said).

The bad side of federalism is that some states are insane, leaving the minorities there out of luck. My friend's position is that people should just 'vote with their feet' when their state gets insane; I'd prefer the federal government have enough heft to it to protect everyone.

Of course, the current upshot is that the federal government is about as insane as the most insane of states, so we may have quite a few temporary federalists out there, who may then decide that isn't such a great long-term idea when the national government gets returned to the Sensibles.
posted by norm at 2:01 PM on December 2, 2004

The following is from the plaintiff's legal brief....

a. Respondent Angel Raich suffers from a daunting
array of serious medical conditions including “life threatening
weight loss, nausea, severe chronic pain (from
scoliosis, temporomandibular joint disfunction and bruxism,
endometriosis, headache, rotator cuff syndrome, uterine
fibroid tumor causing severe dysmenorrheal, chronic pain
combined with an episode of paralysis that confined her to a
wheelchair), post-traumatic stress disorder, non-epileptic
seizures, fibromyalgia, inoperable brain tumor (probable
meningioma or Schwannoma), paralysis on at least one
occasion (the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis has been
considered), multiple chemical sensitivities, allergies, and
asthma.” App., infra, 2a (Decl. of Frank Henry Lucido,

Doctors collect reports like this for ther joke files. Couldn't the lawyers have found a better case to try?
posted by wolfey at 2:09 PM on December 2, 2004

Very good link trharlan

it's the gerdern 2nd link. activist judges.

posted by mrgrimm at 2:12 PM on December 2, 2004

I don't think that consuming these compounds in the form of burning smoke is particularly safe

Vaporizers anyone? I don't leave home without mine!
posted by ludwig_van at 2:22 PM on December 2, 2004


[...] I don't think that consuming these compounds in the form of burning smoke is particularly safe [...]

Vaporize it. This results in what I call zombie pot instead of ash, and you get none of the smoke-based carcinogens. Or eat it. Legalized, it should get cheaper enough to make it much more viable as a cooking herb.

on preview: ludwig beat me to it.

Finally, I do agree with mainstream politicians when they say that the medical marijuana movement is really a back door attempt at legalization.

This is what I mean by detracting from the real issue of anti-prohibition. We all might as well be honest and frame the issue like you did (adults should be able to put what they like in their bodies).

mrgrimm, great MAP link. I am definitely glad that MM brings the subject into the media with an air of legitimacy, and as far as appeals to emotion go, Raich is hard to beat.
posted by effwerd at 2:23 PM on December 2, 2004

Dahlia Lithwick had a rather snarky analysis on Slate. I love it when she gets snarky. ;) Dude Where's My Integrity?

mrgrimm: nope that's what he said. people say funny things trying to justify their own hypocrisy
posted by clubfoote at 2:23 PM on December 2, 2004

Vaporize it. This results in what I call zombie pot instead of ash, and you get none of the smoke-based carcinogens. Or eat it. Legalized, it should get cheaper enough to make it much more viable as a cooking herb.

I'd assume vaporizing or ingesting it would certainly be better, but I still think there is a lot of research that needs to be done to determine exactly what compounds contained within cannabis are really having the desired effects. I think the ideal for medical marijuana would be a derivative which is ingested and has a positive effect on appetite, nausea, pain, or whatever, but doesn't have any psychoactive effect, which I would consider a strong negative side effect.

This is what I mean by detracting from the real issue of anti-prohibition. We all might as well be honest...

I couldn't agree more. I often feel about the same way about the hemp and medical marijuana movement[s?] as I do about Michael Moore-- Yeah, I agree with what they're trying to do, but do they have to be so full of shit?
posted by cosmonaught at 2:40 PM on December 2, 2004

but doesn't have any psychoactive effect, which I would consider a strong negative side effect.

!!! Well, I suppose that depends on your point of view. But it's not like there aren't plenty of legal drugs that get you high.
posted by ludwig_van at 2:43 PM on December 2, 2004

I don't think it's a negative side effect for recreational use-- then it's the desired effect, and increased appetite is probably a negative side effect. Just like people who recreationally use opiates do it because it zonks them out, while lots of people avoid opiates (when possible) for pain specifically because they don't like how much it slows them down.

It's been quite a few years since the idea of being high all the time really appealed to me, and I'm certain the same is true for at least some of people who could benefit from the non-psychoative effects of pot.
posted by cosmonaught at 2:57 PM on December 2, 2004

cosmonaught - sorry I don't have any links, but anecdotally marijuana is very very difficult to study simply because it is incredibly hard to obtain specimens of it that you are allowed to study. Sure, you can score some great hydro from your buddy who grows their own, but the university won't let you publish the results and scientific journals won't accept your results because your sample is not government sanctioned. It's a terrible catch-22.
posted by PurplePorpoise at 3:21 PM on December 2, 2004

cosmonaught, the numerous active compounds in marijuana may seem potentially frightening but it's not like we're talking about a new drug without a history. Marijuana has thousands of years of history. Tracking causes of death to marijuana has been elusive at best, and medical studies declare it has zero morbidity.

As far as removing the high from the treatment, I think that unlikely since, from what I remember, the major component of the high, THC, is the compound that creates the desirable medical effects. It's been so long since I've done research on marijuana, but I think the synthesized version (cannibanol?) had a depreciated high but it was still there. After all, the brain has a receptor specifically designed for THC-like molecules, so maybe the high and the corollary medical benefits go hand in hand simply as a matter of biomechanics.
posted by effwerd at 3:30 PM on December 2, 2004

And by "done research on marijuana" I just mean studying the history, applicable laws and the like from a layman's perspective. I don't want anyone to think I've done medical research.
posted by effwerd at 3:37 PM on December 2, 2004

No, I wasn't being sarcastic. It's quite a collection of illnesses, some of which are hard to demonstrate (which doesn't mean they're not there, but....). She has also apparently married her lawyer, or hired her husband. Looks like Angel Justice is kind of a fund-raising organization for her family. Who knows?

It may have been to the Govt's advantage not to dispute her medical conditions if they make her look like a wacko (even if she isn't).
posted by wolfey at 3:58 PM on December 2, 2004


I've heard the same thing, though there was a recent segment on All Things Considered in which the interviewed pharmaceutical law professor said that the federal government has been easing access to research marijuana.

I agree we need a sane approach to cannabis in our culture, but it has to come from both sides. Treating pot as a panacea for the sick, or even the world, is just as big an impediment to reasonable discourse as ridiculous public policy.


I agree that marijuana seems relatively safe, and that the morbidity rate is probably nil. But an uncontrolled study of history and anecdotal evidence is not even going to begin to answer questions about things like-- drug interactions, the effects of habitual use in the patient populations (e.g., what effects does cannabis have on brain function and memory in the elderly?), actual quantifiable benefits, side effects. Sure marijuana may have been used for thousands of years, but how long was coca or tobacco (or hormone therapy and Vioxx) used before it's negative effects became clear? And if the psychoactive effect can't be seperated, which I agree is unlikely, that's something that needs to be weighed against its benefit.

Again, I'm not tying to say that potential negative side effects mean that it should not be used, just that it's hard to first do no harm, when you do know what that harm may be.
posted by cosmonaught at 4:24 PM on December 2, 2004

Oh, and the synthesized form is dronabinol, which is sold under the trade name Marinol.
posted by cosmonaught at 4:36 PM on December 2, 2004

... I belive that long term studies of the effect of continued use of marijuana would show considerable health risks to patients when compared to other prescription medications. There have been virtually no studies on drug interactions, side-effects, and or even overall effectiveness for the patient populations and conditions it is currently being recommended to treat.

Acute side effects
Documented safety of long-term cannabis use
posted by mrgrimm at 6:12 PM on December 2, 2004

What effwerd said.
posted by scarabic at 6:15 PM on December 2, 2004

How much popular support is there for medical marijuana in the US? I'm in Australia, and several years ago, my mother was dying from lung cancer. She was a sixty-year old woman whos main social activity was making arts and crafts and selling them at craft fairs. During her illness, people started coming out of the woodwork - other craftspeople, neighbours, parents of some my old schoolfriends - to offer to score some dope for her to ease the pain and help her deal with the effects of chemotherapy. A middle-aged pottery woman brought her around a joint wrapped in kitchen wrap one day, "in case she needed it". Her doctor was telling my family to try to score some if we could.

It suddenly seemed to me that something that was considered a taboo, extreme subject was actually incredibly widely accepted, although quietly and without a fuss.
posted by Jimbob at 6:17 PM on December 2, 2004

Thanks for the links mrgrimm.

The Missoula study is interesting, but it is a retrospective study using a small and nonrepresentative sample (4 of the 7 living members of the NIDA compassionate use program) and was conducted by The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies who's mission is "to sponsor scientific research designed to develop psychedelics and marijuana into FDA-approved prescription medicines..." MAPS isn't exactly a disinterested party so there conclusions should be taken with a grain of salt, and it should be obvious that by only including the living members, MAPS focused a study of adverse effects on the members of the cohort that were least likely to have had any. I'm glad the MAPS did the study, but it really has the effect of adding four case studies to our body of knowledge, as opposed to anything that can be generalized to a larger population.

I think the results trickling in from foreign studies are much more interesting, but they still aren't large scale clinical studies, and they aren't exactly all rosy, from your links:

"Moderate smoking of cannabis increases the risk of a heart attack for middle-aged and elderly users during the first hour after using the drug..."

"The risk of heart attack onset was significantly elevated 4.8 times over baseline (95% confidence interval: 2.4-9.5) in the first hour after cannabis use."

"had a negative effect on global IQ score only in subjects who smoked 5 or more joints per week"

"Acute side effects relate mainly to psychological effects (cognitive impairment, altered perception) and circulation (decrease of blood pressure)."

"except for the harms associated with smoking, the adverse effects of marijuana use are within the range of effects tolerated for other medications."

"However, the discussion on whether regular cannabis use causes a decline in cognitive function continues, as can be seen from a discussion in the Journal of the American Medical Association in March and May 2002 (Solowij et al. 2002, Nyquist 2002, Watson 2002, Gunderson et al. 2002, Pope 2002)."

I'm not saying that any of these are deal-breakers, just that these are things that the wide-scale clinical studies and trials would be able to validate and quantify, or rule out.
posted by cosmonaught at 7:09 PM on December 2, 2004

For a sane overview of the issue of the legalisation of marijuana, you owe it to yourself to read the Report of the Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs; the Summary Report (pdf) is excellent, with a very even-handed presentation of the costs, consequences, risks, and benefits of legalisation.

And then cry, because it looks like the Canadian government doesn't yet have the balls to do what has been recommended, and the American government is too corrupt to even begin taking an honest look at what they're doing.

For info on medical marijuana, please go take a look at these threads over on Overgrow's medical marijuana forum.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:39 PM on December 2, 2004

five fresh fish--

I look forward to digging into Senate Report.

A cursory glance of the OG forum kind of reinforces a lot of my worst fears of the medical marijuana movement.
Medical Marijuana for Autistic Kids
I'm growing this can I use it for anything medical?
Bipolar or depression..best strains?
MMJ Before Surgery? Sure!
Weed for Depression
posted by cosmonaught at 8:18 PM on December 2, 2004

Apparently, they don't want people to get high, but getting shit-faced drunk is fine.

Well of course. You can't expect to keep a nation full of nutjob psychos if they're all "peace" this and "love" that, now can you? But a nation full of angry drunks? Hell, that's almost better than a nation full of armed citizens. Combine the two... and we're unstoppable! (mua-ha-ha...)

posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:49 PM on December 2, 2004

thats "pizza" and "leftovers", civil, fuck the hippies.
posted by Satapher at 1:03 AM on December 3, 2004

Persons who smoke marijuana work slower. That is a cardinal SIN in this country. Fat chance it will ever be legalized.
posted by tgyg at 8:53 AM on December 3, 2004

Cosmonaught, Overgrow has a 100 000 registered users (about 2000 online at any given time) and over four million posts. You'd have to be an idiot to think that the entire thing is going to be holy pure, especially if all you are doing is browsing the thread titles.

Now if you'd cared to relieve yourself of ignorance, you'd have actually taken a look at the threads instead of going into hysterics over the titles.

The first response in the autism thread: "To my knowledge Aspergers syndrome doesn't cause pain or hypertension I'm not entirely sure what you are trying to fix or relieve. I do know that many cases suffer from depression in which case MJ may cause more problems than it fixes particularly with those already using medication such as prozac or stronger (vivid disturbing dreams)."

The first response to the "can I use it" thread (asking about a sativa x indica cross): "You might want to try only small amounts at first. Sativa's generally are known for making some anxiety worse. If the Skunk has lots of Indica in it (today's skunk usually does) that should tone down the Haze enough to be helpful."

The actual question in the bipolar thread: "I'm bipolar and most pot seems to help me feel better-or at least forget for a while about the disease and the truly dangerous meds I take for it. Anyone in the same boat that can recommend a favorite or two? Any responses appreciated. And..my best to those on this forum who are struggling with physical or mental illness."

The first reply from someone not an unreliable newbie in the depression thread: "Depression responds well to cognitive therapy, good nutrition, and exercise. Cannabis will not interfere with your SSRI's but for depression I'd stick with Sativa's like C-99 or Apollo 11."

The first reply to the surgery question comes from a heavy user who has personal experience to report, and the second reply admonishes "You should tell the anaesthetists about your smoking, both herbs. It makes their job easier if they don't have to wake you up to ask when something goes wrong."

So your assumptions about the content of those threads appear to be pretty much out-to-lunch. Intelligent people who promote safe and responsible use of the drug as a medicine are making sure that rational answers are being provided.

I have a feeling that you are aware that the indoctrination you've been given is based on lies and misinformation, but that you aren't quite prepared to accept that you have to completely re-jig your understanding of marijuana's actions, efficacy, and use. I suggest you belly-up to the challenge and start doing your own independent research. There are a ton of resources available to you via Overgrow, including hundreds upon hundreds of links to hard-core scientific research papers.

In short, don't buy into the bullshit you've been given in the past, don't buy into the bullshit I'm writing, and go to the primary sources themselves. You can decide for yourself whether those sources are trustworthy, scientific, and truthful. Think for yourself.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:32 AM on December 3, 2004

five fresh fish--

I like to think being a critical thinker is what got me into this mess. I began a strong supporter of medical marijuana, and remain a strong supporter of complete legalization.

I did read the entire threads I cited, and quite a few others. And it's certainly not the fact that the questions are being asked that trouble me. For example, in the Aspergers thread the first reply was skeptical, but DrJay2001, a board moderator and a medical scientist, quickly rules in, and shuts down all contrary discussion:

"We have a number of OG members who have used cannabis very effectively with their autistic children.

Cannabinoids are neural regulators and can help Aspergers. It's really worth a try but you may still require prescription drugs. I'd sure take cannabis over Neurontin any day."

nsl, another board member who posted a skeptical response then says:

"ok, if DrJay says it, then i believe it. wow... "

I try to dig for primary sources on every issue I take interest in. What frustrates me with MMj, is that theres an incredible lack of primary sources, and an assumption on both sides that if there were more studies they would clearly support their respective sides. They might, but we won't really know until more research has been conducted. Until then, I strongly believe that recommending cannabis, especially for psychological conditions, is nothing but bad medicine.

I certainly look forward to revising my opinion as more information becomes available. I'm just not going to do it based on either scare tactics or anecdotes.
posted by cosmonaught at 11:44 AM on December 3, 2004

In the end, the Aspergers thread does contain cautionary information, no? I think that's pretty respectable given that the site is, after all, a gung-ho pro-marijuana love-fest.

Somewhere on the site is a thread with an incredible list of article abstracts. I wish I could find it easily: it was an excellent resource for those who want to read what the actual studies have said, and not rely on anonymous opinions. The studies are out there and are extensive, and to my reading they nearly all conclude that marijuana is mostly harmless. Certainly a lot more benign than alcohol, most prescription drugs, and perhaps even coffee.

You might also note that there's something on the order of ten thousand years of cannibis use in human history with no signs of marijuana causing problems. Given that humans figured out that pennyroyal can cause an abortion and that willow bark can help a headache, I think if marijuana had any significant risks, those risks would be well-known in "traditional medicine" circles. Call it an informal longitudinal study. :-)
posted by five fresh fish at 12:43 PM on December 3, 2004

Medical marijuana is the wrong way to go...
It means you have to have a doctor's perscription.
Which means that Phillip Morris/Phizer can sell you a prepackaged pack of 20 with filters (for your protection).

Buy Mexican brick, and it's a crime.. Grow your own and it's still a crime.

What REALLY needs to happen is de-criminalization of marijuana.

Then, who would NEED to have on hand several pounds?

It could become a block party club where everyone trades clones, everyone has their own homegrown, and everyone's happy....

Liquor is legal. And I have found, through trial and error, that I have a severe like for good American and Canadian bourbon whiskeys.
I drink it every night. but only for the past three years or so.
A good Whiskey-Pepsi is a beautiful thing...

Maker's Mark is AWESOME! Combine that with some Northern Lights #1 or Vail Hybred #3, .....Oh Man!!
posted by Balisong at 6:46 PM on December 3, 2004

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