How federal drug control “law” ignores science.
Throughout the years, the United States Congress has delegated much of is legislative powers to the executive and judicial branches. This delegation includes determining whether a “drug” is legal for medical or recreational use. As it’s 4/20, I think today’s a good day to talk about science denial and cannabis.
For policy decisions and legal action, a system of drug scheduling which is governed by the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). The controlled drug scheduling system includes a number of different categories. Schedule I drugs are substances with no accepted medical use in the United States, are not accepted as safe to use, and which have a high risk of abuse. Schedule II, III, IV, and V are categorized by higher degrees of recognized medical benefit and/or safety of use.
Drugs that are listed as schedule I substances include heroin, LSD, escstasy, and magic mushrooms. While schedule II drugs include cocaine, meth, oxycodone, Adderall and Ritalin, and Vicodin. Schedule 5 drugs include Rubitussan AC, Lomotil, Motofen, Lryrica, and Parepectolin.
Oops. I missed a drug that’s included as a schedule I drug: marijuana. Yes, this evil and destructive substance is classified among the most harmful drugs on the planet. Except that medical science recognizes numerous benefits of both marijuana itself as well as its derivatives. And while side effects will likely be identified as more research is done, it’s still fairly safe.
Even as we identify some risks, given the existence of reasonable scientific literature identifying the utility of the drug, it is absolutely absurd that marijuana is a schedule I drug. And yet its place on the list of worst offenders remains. If we were really using the definition strictly, gasoline should be on the list. Cannabis shouldn’t be. Of course, neither should many of the other illicit drugs on the market. That’s not to say that we should just use them as if they’re safe, but we need to think about the science of the topic.
The question then is whether it is even constitutional for the law to disregard science. It’s an odd question to ask, but given the nature of US law, it seems to be a necessary one. It’s questionable about whether or not the CSA is itself even constitutional, as the fifth amendment states that no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process. But the law must obey the truth, and while it may not be possible to ever know what the truth is exactly, science is what we use to investigate reality. It’s science that we use to determine things like innocent or guilt, be it DNA evidence, ballistics, or numerous other areas of forensic science.
I honestly don’t know what the solution is. Should we pass an amendment that states that any government policy has to be consistent with the best scientific position on the topic? If so, who makes this evaluation? The Supreme Court isn’t qualified to evaluate medical literature. Should there be a committee of experts that look at legal policy decisions? Should we have an actual fourth branch of government that evaluates scientific literature and determines whether there’s a violation of science in the application of law? As an anarchist, my position is just get rid of the law entirely, and we wouldn’t have to worry. But for those who aren’t interested in that solution, maybe it is time for a constitutional amendment.