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In 1970, President Nixon signed the Controlled Substances Act, which updated and consolidated previously scattered narcotics legislation to form the federal guidelines on controlled substances used to this day. Cannabis was listed as a Schedule I substance, a category for “drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse”; this is a stricter classification than even raw opium, which is Schedule II.
Since the first medical cannabis laws were introduced in California 25 years ago, 35 states have joined with California in defiance of the federal prohibition of cannabis as a medicine. Now, two-thirds of Americans live in states where medical cannabis is legal. Across these states, millions of patients are demonstrating cannabis’ medicinal value through their treatments every day. However, the federal government continues to lag behind with drug classifications from an era where computers were the size of school busses. This conflict between states that have allowed their citizens to access medical cannabis and the federal government, which maintains its punitive actions against medical cannabis, means that millions of potential patients are still without access to medical cannabis.
Throughout our Biden Harris Can Do It campaign, ASA has been drawing attention to the many issues that emerge from the federal-state conflict on medical cannabis in order to highlight the immediate need for change to bring equity for every medical cannabis patient nationwide. This includes:
- 4.6 million Americans who live in HUD subsidized housing and who are at risk of losing the roof over their heads if they use medical cannabis at home.
- 20 million veterans experiencing a range of health challenges from PTSD to chronic pain who rely on doctors provided through Veteran’s Affairs and are unable to obtain a recommendation from their doctors for this life-saving medicine.
- Medical cannabis businesses that provide patients with medicine, which state governments declared as essential, but still face potential consequences from the federal government for operating a cannabis related business.
- The federal government, despite the struggle to find competent and qualified staff, still firing employees who have admitted to cannabis use in the past and still enforcing federal employees to random drug testing.
It is far past time to bring these absurd policy shortcomings to an end by reclassifying cannabis and establishing a federal agency to oversee cannabis production, so that patients everywhere, no matter what state they live in or condition they have, can have access to the medicine they need.
While individual states have varying degrees of oversight on medical cannabis products, safe access to medicine requires standardized and consistent oversight (i.e testing requirements, availability of products, ability to home grow). Without a central agency to play this role, patients do not have equal access to safe and reliable cannabis across the country. Federal regulations need to catch up. What little regulatory function exists is strained by the competing agendas of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Department of Justice, including the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, and other entities.
By establishing something similar to an Office of Medical Cannabis Control, there would only be one federal agency that would be responsible for leading and coordinating regulatory responsibilities associated with medical cannabis policy. This new office would merge the existing regulatory functions that nearly a dozen agencies share over cannabis to guarantee safe access to medical cannabis for ALL Americans.
If you agree with Americans for Safe Access on these issues, we urge you to take action today by emailing pre-drafted messages to agencies through our system.