United States Surgeon General Jerome Adams called on the federal government to reconsider its classification of marijuana as a Schedule I substance. He did not go so far as to call for the legalization of cannabis for recreational use, but Adams said that the drug should be studied medically, just like other pain relief medication.
Adams, who spoke at a law enforcement conference last month at Harvard University in Boston, was asked about his views on the country’s scheduling system for drugs. To this, he answered that health laws, rules, and regulations in the country need to be re-evaluated. He said that there is a need to look at the way the federal government schedules different drugs across the board.
According to Adams, both criminal justice and health policies need to be re-examined as they pertain to the classification of cannabis. Cannabis is classified as a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act, along with hard drugs like heroin and LSD. This means the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration believes that cannabis has no therapeutic value and that it has a high potential for abuse.
The DEA had specifically looked at cannabis in 2016 and found that there was no reason for the agency to reclassify the drug and to make it easier for researchers to access it. The DEA’s memo stated that the Department of Health and Human Services concluded that cannabis has a high potential for abuse, does not have any accepted medical use, and lacks an acceptable level of safety for consumption even under medical supervision.
Moreover, Schedule I substances face significantly more federal restrictions when it comes to access, and even for medical research purposes.
Adams further noted that one of his concerns with cannabis is the difficulty that some people have even in just doing research on it.
However, he acknowledged that federal health authorities have to do a delicate balancing act as they need to protect people from dangerous substances while also allowing research on these substances.
“We need to look at how we can continue changing the scheduling system so that it promotes public health and safety, and so that it does not inhibit research and exploration of potential options,” Adams said.
Adams was also asked whether the country should decriminalize the personal possession of all drugs. The surgeon general stated that he does not believe in full decriminalization improving public safety in the U.S. However, he said that he believes such decisions should be subject to “local control” instead of unilateral action by the federal government.