Where Should the Buck Stop?
Marijuana became illegal with the passing of the Marijuana Tax Act in 1934. The Marijuana Tax Act required individuals who wished to sell or distribute marijuana to first register with the government and then pay a special tax. These requirements along with extremely strict government controls effectively criminalizing the medical or recreational use of marijuana (Schlosser). In 1938 The Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act was passed, which established a class of drugs available by prescription. At the same time the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was given control over drug safety. In 1941 marijuana was officially removed from the US Pharmacopoeia (ProCon). Since the passing of the Marijuana Tax Act in 1936, and consequent reclassification of marijuana the federal government’s stance has become increasingly harsh. The “War on Drugs” initially declared by U.S. President Richard Nixon in 1971 (Baldwin), precipitated the enactment of The Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984, the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, and the Anti-Drug Abuse Amendment Act of 1988 which raised federal penalties for marijuana possession. However, since 1996 14 states, including California, have legalized medical marijuana even though it remains illegal for both medical and recreational use at the federal level. With California Initiative 09-0024 being considered for the November 2010 ballot, Californians are again being asked the question, should marijuana be legal to sell and consume for both medicinal and recreational purposes? (National Briefing) The answer is no; marijuana should not be legalized at the state level. Marijuana legalization and regulation should be handled at the federal level for medicinal purposes only to allow existing process and regulations to govern drug safety.
The fact that marijuana has been legalized in 14 states for medicinal purposes supports the assertion that marijuana is a drug. A drug, as defined in the Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, is “a substance intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease” (383). In the United States drugs are regulated by the FDA. However, before the issue of legalizing medical marijuana can be considered at the federal level it is necessary to change the schedule classification of marijuana with the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). Marijuana is currently a schedule 1 drug, meaning it is not considered legitimate for any medical purposes. Other familiar drugs currently listed as schedule 1 drugs are heroin and LSD. This classification restricts the research needed, to provide the data necessary, to reclassify marijuana as medicine in the eyes of the FDA.
Moving marijuana off the schedule 1 drug list with the DEA allows the government to supply marijuana to pharmaceutical companies, as provided under strict regulations, for clinical research. As part of the FDA approval process the marijuana medication developed through this...