It Is Time for Marijuana to Be Reclassified as Something Other Than a Schedule I Drug

August 25, 2005

George D. Lundberg, MD, Medscape

For many decades, marijuana has been the American poster child for how not to deal with a troubling psychoactive substance. By US law, a Schedule I substance is one with no recognized medical use and great potential harm to the user. Marijuana has been classified as a Schedule I substance for many decades,[1] along with heroin and LSD. Judging from its easy availability, low cost, and widespread current use, such a restrictive classification has failed to retard its use.

In fact, enforcement of unrealistic laws regarding marijuana has probably caused more harm than marijuana itself. Although far from harmless by toxicologic or pathologic criteria, marijuana is much less dangerous than many other substances in less restrictive schedules, like morphine and cocaine, not to mention the unscheduled legal mass killers tobacco and alcohol. Of course, marijuana does have proven medical usefulness for some conditions.[2] People obey laws they believe to be just; they do not obey the marijuana laws because they know they are unjust, even absurd. Kids quickly see through lies. Many kids may discount the proper scare tactics about really dangerous drugs, like heroin and PCP, because the dangers of marijuana have been so overstated. Ninety percent of Americans believe that the federal government should not prosecute medical users of marijuana, despite the newest "federal foolishness" of the recent Supreme Court decision against it.[3] This commonsense position of the people should give pause to any overzealous prosecutors who might have real trouble finding a jury that would convict a seriously ill user of medical marijuana. The court decision now provides the Congress and the Drug Enforcement Administration with a sterling opportunity to join with the population they are supposed to be serving and with the good science of the 10 states that have authorized the controlled use of medical marijuana and reclassify it at some level other than Schedule I.

That's my opinion. I'm Dr. George Lundberg, Editor of MedGenMed.


  1. Department of Justice. Drug Enforcement Administration. Marijuana scheduling petition: denial of petition: remand (Pocket No. 86-22). Fed Regist. 1992;57:10489-10508.
  2. Kassirer JP. Federal foolishness and marijuana. N Engl J Med. 1997;336:1184-1187. Available at: Accessed August 19, 2005.
  3. US News - Should the federal government prosecute medical marijuana users? Available at: Accessed August 19, 2005.

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