If you thought they were going to issue a formal apology after decades of flagrant dishonesty, you would be mistaken. But the DEA is at long last conceding marijuana's incredible medical value…by giving pharmaceutical companies exclusive permission to make pills out of it.
"[M]arijuana has no scientifically proven medical value." So stated the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) on page six of a July 2010 agency white paper, titled "DEA Position on Marijuana."
Yet only four months after the agency committed its "no medical pot" stance to print, it announced its intent to allow for the regulation and marketing of pharmaceutical products containing plant-derived THC -- the primary psychoactive ingredient in cannabis. (Alternet)
DEA can try to frame this any way they like, but the bottom line remains that authorizing cultivation for pharmaceutical companies is the end of the debate. Over. Done. Whatever nuanced distinctions the enemies of medical marijuana seek to advance from this point forward will be devastated by the simple fact that new medicines are being made out of marijuana with the blessing of the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Conspiracy theories will abound, of course, regarding the potential for a widespread campaign to shut down state-level medical marijuana programs and instead shove expensive pills down the throats of patients, while arresting providers and cultivators who refuse to comply. That isn't going to happen. As much as the DEA and their corporate co-conspirators might fantasize about it, a full-scale assault on the medical cannabis industry is simply impossible from both a practical and political standpoint. These laws were put in place by the people and they won't be done away with over our objections.
On the contrary, the emergence of cannabis-based pharmaceuticals has real potential to vest corporate interests with a stake in the drug's overall reputation. Rather than distancing themselves from the origins of their products, manufacturers of THC-based medications will recognize that associating their product with marijuana is in fact a shrewd marketing ploy. Marinol has already done exactly that. People love pot and that's going to be the key to selling these pills. As a result, we could soon be witnessing a seemingly impossible scenario in which pharmaceutical companies actually share our frustration when some drug war idiot comes along claiming THC causes schizophrenia.
Obviously, it's unlikely that our goals will ever align perfectly with those of the pharmaceutical industry, but they're clearly better at working with the DEA than we'll ever be. Rather than viewing the situation as a threat to our continued progress, I think we need to recognize that various forms of industrialization will be the inevitable result of our hard work to de-stigmatize the drug. As that process unfolds, we'll encounter numerous new and interesting opportunities to reframe the conversation about the dangers of marijuana. Even if this latest move by DEA is nothing more than a cynical attempt to thwart our progress somehow, I imagine it will backfire just as surely as every other tactic they've deployed in the drug war debate thus far.