# 238

President Biden on Thursday announced plans to move marijuana from the highest controlled substance classification to a lower category.

For an administration whose mantra has been “follow the science,” this is perplexing since the decision appears to be based almost entirely on politics.

In a recent interview in The Wall Street Journal, one of the nation’s top experts on the drug says alarms are being ignored about the serious physiological impact of marijuana. 

Nonetheless, the Drug Enforcement Administration yesterday issued a proposed rule to move marijuana from the list of completely prohibited Schedule I drugs, like heroin and LSD, to Schedule III, which includes prescription medications such as ketamine and Tylenol with codeine. 

There is strong political pressure—in an election year—to decriminalize use of marijuana and pardon those incarcerated for possession. 

States also see their ability to tax marijuana as a valuable source of revenue.  Twenty-four states have legalized it for “recreation,” and 14 more allow medicinal use. 

In an interview, “What You Aren’t Hearing About Marijuana’s Health Effects,” Harvard psychobiology professor and addiction expert Bertha Madras explains the science linking the drug to psychiatric disorders including schizophrenia, permanent brain damage, and even a higher incidence of car accidents.

Today’s marijuana isn’t the same as the weed smoked by college kids in earlier decades.  Levels of THC—the main psychoactive ingredient in pot—are four or more times as high as they were 30 years ago.

This increases the potential for addition and does more lasting damage to the brain than alcohol, which clears the system more quickly, Dr. Madras says.  That heightens the risks of anxiety and depression, impaired memory, and other serious long-term effects.

The evidence that cannabis can contribute to schizophrenia is a major concern. “A large-scale study last year that examined health histories of some 6.9 million Danes between 1972 and 2021 estimated that up to 30% of young men’s schizophrenia diagnoses could have been prevented had they not become dependent on pot,” the Journal interview reports.

“Another cause for concern, Dr. Madras notes, is that more pregnant women are using pot, which has been linked to increased preterm deliveries, admissions of newborns into neonatal intensive care units, lower birth weights and smaller head circumferences,” impacting brain development.

“What happens when you examine kids who have been exposed during that critical period?” Ms. Madras asks. During adolescence, she answers, they show an increased incidence of aggressive behavior, cognitive dysfunction, and symptoms of ADHD and obsessive-compulsive disorders. They have reduced white and gray matter.

Dr. Madras has studied drug use for 60 years and runs the addiction neurobiology lab at Mass General Brigham McLean Hospital.  She calls the administration’s decision, “a tragic one.”

Marijuana supporters are only mildly pleased with the change in classification. Aaron Smith, CEO of the National Cannabis Industry Association, said: 

“Rescheduling alone does not fix our nation’s state and federal cannabis policy conflict. Only Congress can enact the legislation needed to fully respect the states and advance the will of the vast majority of voters who support legal cannabis.”  

The Biden administration’s proposed rule does not change marijuana use as a federal crime; only Congress can do that. And pardons require a separate track.

As of January 2022, the United States Sentencing Commission reports that “no offenders sentenced solely for simple possession of marijuana remained in the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons.”

 # 238 President Biden on Thursday announced plans to move marijuana from the highest controlled substance classification to a lower category. For an administration whose mantra has b…  Read More