First Principles - Marijuana and Science
under Federal Law
Marijuana - Legal
Science - Legally
Binding Scientific Standards
The Law - Legal Definition of Regulatory Authority
1. Authority of
the Attorney General to Change Regulatory Status
2. Findings Required
for Prohibition Status, Schedule I.
What is Marijuana Prohibition?
Marijuana Prohibition is defined by marijuana's status as
a Schedule I Substance under the Controlled Substances Act.
Schedule I substances are subject to a near complete prohibition,
a ban on medical use, and only limited research allowed. Criminal
penalties for marijuana use, sale, and cultivation are justified
by marijuana's Schedule I status. A removal of marijuana from
Schedule I would end of marijuana prohibition.
The law requires that the U.S. amend International Treaties
if it discovers scientific information that indicates a drug
or substance's international status should be changed. See
21 USC 811 (d) (5).
Federal Court Interpretation of the Legal Definition of
the Findings Required for Schedule I Status:
The U.S. Court of Appeals ruled in 1977 that the lack of
accepted medical use by itself was insufficient to justify
schedule I status for a drug or substance. See DEA,
559 F.2d 735, 748. (1977).
Abuse Finding Required for Marijuana's Prohibited Status:
No finding that marijuana "has a high potential for abuse"
was made during the FDA of marijuana in response to the marijuana
rescheduling petition filed by NORML in 1972.
See 51 FR 22947 (1986)
When Congress enacted the Controlled Substances Act, they
knew that there was no scientific evidence that marijuana
use had the abuse potential necesary for Schedule I status.
See U.S. Code Cong.
& Admin. News (1970) p.4603.
The Controlled Substances Act contained provisions in 1970
establishing a National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse
which was to report to Congress and the nation (and eventually
recommended marijuana decriminalization). The Nixon Administration
sent Congress a letter requesting that marijuana be placed
in Schedule I on a temporary basis pending the report of the
Commission established by the legislation. It was argued that
the Attorney General could always begin proceedings to re-schedule
marijuana if scientific evidence confirmed that it lacked
sufficient abuse potential for schedule I or II status.
See U.S. Code Cong.
& Admin. News (1970) p.4630.
Indications that Marijuana Does Not Have a High Potential
In 1986 an extensive review of marijuana-related research
by Leo Hollister was published in the Pharmalogical
Reviews. This article is still cited today as an authoritative
and accurate assessment of marijuana's effects. Dr. Hollister
concluded that marijuana was no more addictive than alcohol
See Hollister, L.E. (1986), "Health
Aspects of Cannabis", Pharmacological Reviews,
38:1, 1-20. Pg 17.
In 1992 the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) of the
U.S. Congress published a paper on the Biological
Basis for Substance Abuse and Addiction. OTA noted
that marijuana did not satisfy the contemporary standards
for declaring that a drug has dangerous dependence liability.
See U.S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment Biological
Components of Substance Abuse and Addiction
(1993) OTA-BP-BBS-117 (Washington, DC: US Government Printing
Office, September 1993). pg 5.
The 1995 Petition for
the Repeal of Marijuana Prohibition seeks to have the
U.S. government review marijuana's status under the Controlled
Substances Act in light recent scientific discoveries regarding
marijuana and the cannabinoid receptor system responsible
for marijuana's effects on the human body. The argument outlined
above is presented in greater detail in sections 1 and 7 of
the petition. Other sections of the petition review a wide
range of topics related to the scientific standards referenced
above. The home page for the full petition text includes brief
descriptions of the research discussed in each section. See
Introduction to Rescheduling for more about the 1995 petition
and the followup 2002 Cannabis