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A Brief Introduction to Scheduling

If you’ve hung around potheads at all, you may have heard them argue that pot is safer than alcohol. It’s actually a valid argument, but perhaps one that could be aided by some more reputable sources. So how about one of the world’s oldest and most respected peer reviewed medical journals, The Lancet? According to the Guardian today:

Alcohol is the most dangerous drug in the UK by a considerable margin, beating heroin and crack cocaine into second and third place, according to an authoritative study published today which will reopen calls for the drugs classification system to be scrapped and a concerted campaign launched against drink.

The United Kingdom and the United States both have very similar issues with the classification of drugs. Beginning in 1976, the UK’s Misuse of Drugs Act defined three classes of illegal drugs based on their perceived harm — as perceived by the very biased forces in the government, of course. While alcohol is legal and considered “safe,” LSD — which the Lancet study considers far safer and less likely to cause real harm — is a class A drug. This means that those in possession could face up to 7 years in prison, and those convicted of selling this drug could face life imprisonment. . . .

Sadly, things are no better (or arguably even worse) here in the United States thanks in part to the Federal Scheduling System. Whereas the Misuse of Drugs Act deals with penalties for the drugs, the scheduling system actually defines what drugs doctors are allowed to prescribe and how. Among other factors, it is this system that has made research into the beneficial effects of psychedelics so difficult. Both MDMA (Ecstasy) — which has long history of effective use in psychotherapy — and psilocybin mushrooms — which have been shown to be valuable in helping those with terminal illnesses — are classified as schedule I substances, those considered to have no medical benefit, and therefore completely illegal for doctors of any kind to use or prescribe.

That’s even before we touch on the issue of cannabis (marijuana). Despite countless evidence that the drug has benefit to everyone from cancer patients to irritable bowel syndrome, this plant too is considered to have no medical benefit. Doctors who recommend it to their patients can lose their license, regardless of how much they know it might benefit them. Remember this is a drug which has been used by doctors for thousands of years and used to be available to everyone. Yet our government considers it as dangerous and medically pernicious as crack cocaine. Since we’re dealing with federal law, this could apply even to doctors in states with pro-cannabis laws, medical or otherwise.

This is why laws like Proposition 19 are so important, but also why they they are only just a first step toward sanity toward substance use in our country. Campaigns like Just Say Now, along with organizations like the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies are crucial in helping society realize the benefits of that which has been irrationally forbidden.

I’m thrilled to be writing here on FireDogLake and look forward to your comments.

You can find more of my writing on my blog, Approximately 8,000 Words.

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Kit OConnell

Kit OConnell

Kit O’Connell is a gonzo journalist and radical troublemaker from Austin, Texas. He is the Associate Editor and Community Manager of Shadowproof. Kit's investigative journalism has appeared in Truthout, MintPress News and Occupy.com.

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