Friday, May 18, 2007

Proposed Controlled Substances Act of 2007

The major piece of US legislation dealing with drugs and drug use is called the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, which among other things, established five distinct "Schedule" levels and the criteria for determining into which Schedule any given substance should be classed. For each level in the Schedule, the criteria are focused on three distinct aspects: potential for abuse, established medical efficacy, and likelihood of creating dependence.

Surely, one of the most blatant examples of the lunacy of the criteria for "Scheduling" substances involves marijuana. The main psychoactive compound in marijuana is tetrahydrocannabinol or THC. In its natural state in the marijuana plant, THC is a "Schedule I" substance with a "high potential for abuse, no accepted medical use, and a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision." Obviously, if something has no "accepted medical use" then it will not likely have an established level of safety in medical use -- it's a Catch-22, isn't it?

More importantly, man-made THC is on Schedule III and thus has been judged to have a potential for abuse "less than those included in Schedules I and II," a "currently accepted medical use," and that "abuse" of the drug may lead to only "moderate or low physical dependence or high psychological dependence." Somehow, man-made THC has been declared to have less potential for abuse than marijuana which contains natural THC. Frankly, I am incapable of comprehending how that can possibly be so.

But my intent here is not to focus on "medical" marijuana -- I want to focus on the real reason the vast majority of people smoke pot: for recreational intoxication. It is a subtle but essential point to state that the CSA has nothing to do with recreational intoxicants. Indeed, the specification in the Scheduling criteria that a substance has to be evaluated in terms of its medical efficacy is its Achilles' Heel. Why should a substance intended for recreational intoxication be assessed for medical utility? If I want to get high, I honestly don't care whether or not my intoxicant can double as a "medicine" of some sort.

Worse yet, given the absolute inadequacy of the CSA to address recreational intoxication, if we need to buy allergy pills or cold medicine we now have to show photo ID, and have our purchases of such items recorded and restricted. Never mind that the drug in question (pseudoephedrine) was already approved through the various "Schedules" and was proven a "safe and effective" non-threatening "medicine" that made it all the way to over-the-counter sales (in 1976!). Never mind that 99.4 percent of Americans are not past year meth users. The intentions behind the CSA were to ensure that intoxicants other than alcohol would never be "legal" to manufacture, use or sell in the United States. Period.

To help put an end to the nonsensical requirements of the current CSA and create a more sane approach to the issues of intoxicant use, I therefore propose a new modified CSA. The new act only needs to have three defined "Schedules" as follows:

Schedule I - Medicines: Medicines are those substances primarily designed and intended to treat or cure diseases.

Schedule II - Drugs: Drugs are those substances primarily designed and intended to provide relief of physical symptoms and discomforts.

Schedule III - Recreational Intoxicants: Recreational intoxicants are those substances primarily designed and intended to create a state of altered awareness.

License the manufacture and sale, establish quality controls and labeling requirements, and sell the intoxicants only to adults.

Prescriptions should only be used as a form of recommendation from a physician to a patient -- not as a "permission" slip as is the case in the current system.

This stuff is nowhere near as complicated as it has been made out to be.