Is It Really A Surprise For The Feds To Say No To Marijuana?


Graphic: Salem News

The Anatomy of a Memo
By Jack Rikess

Toke of the Town

Northern California Correspondent

In a incredibly chicken-shit way, the Department of Justice did a news dump last Friday night after all the big news services had gone to bed, releasing a memo meant to “clarify” its position whether marijuana should remained classified as a Schedule I drug, which means that it has no medicinal benefit.

Big surprise! The DOJ said the scheduling remains the same. “Not so fast, partner, nothing changing as far as we’re concerned.” Marijuana is to remain classified as a Schedule I drug because of its “lack of medicinal benefits.”
My first question is could there be a conflict of interest with a agency like the Department of Justice that is home to the DEA, Bureau of Prisons, National Drug Intelligence Center, Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, Office for Immigration Review, U.S. Marshals Service, Interpol, FBI, and the ATF? 
Are these really the guys we want deciding whether marijuana’s good for you or not?
Is it really a surprise then when they said, “No?”

Graphic: Cannabis Sativa

​I don’t think so. What would be startling is if they said, “I know we derive much of our revenue from fighting marijuana and it keeps these many agencies funded and afloat, but what the hell. Let’s see if we can finally help people instead of destroying lives.”
I can’t see that happening either.
So how did the DOJ come up with their findings?
They outsourced it of course. 
See, the government is very inter-departmental oriented. The job of the government is to confuse the tax payers and voters until they are overwhelmed by bureaucratic bullshit and say, “I quit. Enough. You won. Too many words…Too many departments. Too many offices and cubicles. I can’t find the guy I’m looking for who’s responsible for this bullshit. I give up.”
But I found the right person to sort it all out for us.
Barbara Carreno, DEA spokesperson explains it all.
“Anyone can petition for something to be rescheduled,” Carreno said. “We investigate their request. We’re cops, we’re not clinicians or researchers…or anything like that. So the Department of Health and Human Services does the actual research. Specifically it’s the National Institute on Drug Abuse or the FDA…then they make a recommendation to us and based on the recommendation…We announce whether we’re going to reschedule or not. In this case…Nothing had changed from prior times. The FDA sent back a recommendation that the scheduling should not be changed because marijuana currently has no medical use…So it’s still not medicine.”

Photo: Natl NORML/flickr
Dale Gierigner, Cal NORML: “The government’s response raises serious questions about its competence to manage America’s health care”

​Dale Gieringer, California director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), believes differently: “The growing body of scientific evidence and plus the approval of medical marijuana in several states should be grounds to reschedule marijuana.”
“After nine years of regulatory delays… The DEA finally responded to a petition we send requesting that marijuana be rescheduled for medical use,” Gieringer goes on. “And not unexpectedly, they flatly denied it. This was our third petition that has been sent in to the DEA…every time turning it down. This time we thought… we a had a better case to be make because…What your supposed to argue to the DEA… is whether the drug has any medical acceptable use…If it has accepted medical use then it needs to be scheduled accordingly by the Federal Government.
“We argued that the legalization of medical marijuana by California and several other states was evidence that in fact it did have accepted medical use…as was the fact that there’s been dozens of studies in recent years affirming that it was useful.”
Gieringer assisted in the writing of the petition asking for rescheduling and has a few more words about the ruling…
“The government’s response raises serious questions about its competence to manage America’s health care.”
Gieringer also noted that several surveys have shown that medi-jane patients can dramatically cut down their use of more costly and but less effectively FDA-approved prescription drugs by using medical marijuana. 
“The DEA drug bureaucrats are deliberately ignoring these facts so as to protect their bloated agency,” he said.
The official reason the government says that marijuana still remains a Schedule I Drug?
It’s because of the testing process.  
The FDA official statement… Well, we don’t see any large-scale FDA double-blind controlled approval study, therefore, we don’t see anything.
Really. That’s it. I’m serious.

Photo: Drog Riporter
Even as the government claims marijuana has no medical value, it moves to approve Sativex, made from — you guessed it! — marijuana. Oh, and of course, manufactured by Big Pharma. $$$ee what I mean?

​DEA representative Carreno stresses that the FDA and others are studying marijuana at this point in time. She insists that the DEA, the department that is empowered to award researchers with registration numbers for their studies so they can process and handle the marijuana, is not standing in the way of marijuana research as skeptics have reported.
The agency has approved 209 researchers looking into marijuana as a medicine with DEA registration numbers.
“So we are not standing in the way of research being conducted on marijuana as a medicine,” Carreno said. “We have awarded registration numbers to do the research…So, we’re not standing in the way…We have given out numbers specifically for this kind of research…so, we’re not standing in the way…of studies that are being conducted that could result in marijuana being… found useable for medicine-so far it hasn’t…but we’re not standing in the way of research that’s being conducted that would look at that.”
So the FDA, the same people who won’t let us call our marijuana organic — because they own that name — wants to own the whole plant too.
They say marijuana has no medicinal value even as they grant clinical trials to the pharmaceutical behemoth, GW Pharmaceuticals, for their medical marijuana product called Sativex.  
I’m sure after a certain period of time and some briefcases full of loot exchanging hands, Sativex will be found having medicinal value and the FDA will award one of their friends the contract to sell weed to America.
NORML says to call your state senators, telling them that the FDA findings are incompetent and ill-advised. That marijuana has medicinal value and should be reclassified as a Schedule II drug, at least. (Remember, even cocaine and methamphetamine are on Schedule II, meaning both are officially considered by the U.S. federal government to be less dangerous than marijuana.)
On the other hand, I say who appoints the people who work in the FDA and the Department of Health and Human Services? If study after study is getting shut down, maybe it’s not our impotent government officials who are afraid to make a stand on the issue of medical marijuana.
Maybe we should take a closer look the wonks and the civil servants who dictate policy behind the scenes that quietly control the course of our lives. 
 As Jerry Seinfeld would say, “Who are these people?”

Photo: Jack Rikess
Toke of the Town correspondent Jack Rikess blogs from the Haight in San Francisco.

Jack Rikess, a former stand-up comic, writes a regular column most directly found at

Jack delivers real-time coverage following the cannabis community, focusing on politics and culture.

His beat includes San Francisco, the Bay Area and Mendocino-Humboldt counties.

He has been quoted by the national media and is known for his unique view with thoughtful, insightful perspective.