Jim Hartman: Biden panders on pot

Jim Hartman

Jim Hartman

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The Biden administration has leaked to the press that it intends to reschedule marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule III.

While proclaimed an “historic move” by some in the media it doesn’t legalize marijuana, expunge or pardon past offenders or release people from prison.

It could make it much easier to buy and sell pot and make the multibillion-dollar industry more profitable.

It’s a political pander by Joe Biden hoping the move will increase his appeal to younger voters where polls show him lagging far behind his 2020 performance against Donald Trump.

The shift is based on election-year politics not on science or logic.

By way of background, there are five Schedules, or classifications of controlled substances. Marijuana has been in Schedule I, the most restrictive category.

The scheduling of drugs is not a “harm index” or used to determine criminal penalties for drugs. Scheduling is not synonymous with the danger of a drug. Rather, it’s a technical/legal term that categorizes drugs according to their potential for abuse and accepted medical value.

Schedule I drugs are those with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Examples include heroin, ecstasy and peyote.

Marijuana meets the technical definition of Schedule I because it has a high potential for abuse and has no FDA-approved use.

In comparison, Schedule III drugs have a moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence. They include Tylenol with codeine, testosterone and other anabolic steroids.

Marijuana, as a smokable plant, is not medicine. The American Psychiatric Association, in a position statement opposing the use of marijuana as medicine, noted, “no medication approved by the FDA is smoked.”

In 2016, when marijuana’s schedule was last reviewed, the Obama administration determined it belongs in Schedule I. President Obama’s drug enforcement administrator denied marijuana reclassification based on DEA and FDA studies.

Biden’s appointed U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, the “Nation’s Doctor,” has said “public policy is outpacing the science when it comes to marijuana.” Biden’s DEA administrator, Anne Milgram, did not sign off on the rescheduling decision.

A December article in the New England Journal of Medicine, “Cannabis-Related Disorders and Toxic Effect,” details the myriad risks of marijuana use, including mental illness and cognitive difficulties.

With 24 states now legalizing recreational use, more young people are using the drug and frequently experiencing such problems. Chronic consumption is associated with depression, anxiety and increases the risk of psychosis by five-fold, research shows.

Studies also linked frequent cannabis use with increased risk of heart failure, heart attack and stroke.

Marijuana has become more potent. Today, it has four times the THC as it did in the 1990s, with some products now more than 20 times as potent.

Emergency-room doctors report seeing increasing numbers of patients with uncontrolled vomiting and other symptoms of cannabis poisoning. More toddlers are also accidently ingesting cannabis in edible form, with children coming in with seizures and not breathing.

Increasing numbers of pregnant women use pot, unaware that THC is harmful to fetal development.

Marijuana impairs driving. According to a 2021 study in the American Journal of Public Health, the percentage of motor-vehicle crash fatalities involving cannabis rose to 21.5% in 2018 from 9% in 2000.

U.S. marijuana industry sales will exceed $30 billion in 2024. Big Marijuana is thrilled with making pot a Schedule III drug.

The scheduling change would have major tax consequences for marijuana businesses. Schedule III gives the industry access to certain tax advantages allowing these companies to write off their business expenditures on their taxes, potentially including advertising.

Cannabis would be given a more favorable federal tax treatment than alcohol and tobacco.

Rather than heed public health concerns, Biden has chosen to pander to young voters and stand with the multibillion-dollar commercial marijuana industry and its surging political power.

E-mail Jim Hartman at lawdocman1@aol.com.


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