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Why Is Cannabis Still A Schedule I Drug? Political Magic 101 – Misdirection


uncle sam marijuana federal charges landlordI was sent a very interesting e-mail from the father of medical marijuana in America – Dennis Peron. See his essay below:

By John Entwistle & Dennis Peron

Medical marijuana was the new face of the evil weed when we wrote the Compassionate Use Act of 1996. It was new to a nation under the influence of a 60 year long reefer madness campaign. It was new to all but the very old. The rest of us were too young to know that from the time before the pyramids right up until 1937 cannabis was medicine. It was new because it was outside our experience of modern drugs keeping us healthy. So we thought it was brand new and what came before – the so called recreational use of pot – was old.

Back then most folks figured recreational pot meant everyone and medical was just for sick and dying people. In other words we were talking about two different groups of users, a few medicating and the majority “getting high.” And most of us would still identify with the latter category if the alternative meant copping to some socially demeaning vulnerability such as illness or even the most minor disability.

Therein lays the misdirection, our fixation on the chimera of recreational pot. That we see two groups instead of one sets us up to be manipulated by those wizards of prohibition. The illusion exploits human ego and misconceptions about cannabis, in particular the trivialization of its many therapeutic applications so nicely accomplished today.
So when the magician asks us to choose between medical and recreational reasons to explain our personal use of marijuana we will pick the answer that saves face. We’ll claim perfect health saying that we toke up for the buzz or some such nonsense. And so we are manipulated into accepting a binary scenario in which we can only see ourselves as non-medical users. It’s a powerful spell. We’ll insist that we’re just getting stoned a hundred times over. Eventually we will believe it. And so will everyone else.

Thus set up we will never ask the revealing question. Is medical pot really new or is recreational use just a slanderous short term memory that should be lost ASAP? The history of the world indisputably backs this second point but the entire experience of our short lives sets us up to think that medical marijuana is a new idea. This mother of all working memory limits is as effective as a blindfold.

As best as anyone can remember, prior to the AIDS epidemic pot was a recreational drug used by people who used superlatives describing the so called “high”; it was illegal and getting caught was bad. To buy marijuana you had to know a criminal and it was more expensive than gold.

Cannabis users lived semi-underground in a world where lying was commonplace. Our collective identity was violently imposed on us through decades of media stereotyping alongside mass arrests to the tune of a half million of us (now closer to 800,000) per year. Many have been arrested multiple times for nothing more than marijuana.

Misunderstood is putting it mildly. As “Potheads” we were broadly regarded as disrespectful of authority, even a bit masochistic for choosing not to get with the program and quit. It was hard not to buy into it; hell, it was futile to argue – we’d just dig the hole deeper. To the extent that we fought at all for our civil rights our banner read: Recreational use. No one, including ourselves had any idea of what the hell that slogan meant (although it did have a nice ring to it). And so we would lose in the poles, the elections and in the courtroom.

As so called recreational users we were marginalized, even by ourselves. This allowed for victimization, disenfranchisement and discrimination to occur uncontested in ten thousand ways. We were thrown out of schools, jobs and even our biological families. In hind sight, it was a failure to communicate. We didn’t really know who we were so we couldn’t find common ground with the greater society. This deplorable situation could have gone on forever had it not been for the AIDS epidemic coming out of nowhere during the early 1980’s. That’s when everything changed.
AIDS killed the appetite for reasons unknown. It left the body vulnerable to diseases that required massive doses of stomach wrenching medications. The early years of the epidemic were a combination of mind numbingly painful images soaked in an atmosphere of frustration. Guys were wasting to death with purple skin cancer lesions, flat hard circles of fungus type growths consuming their bodies eventually “going internal” through the mouth or nose. For several long years there was no treatment whatsoever, no cure, no explanations, no nothing. Many died, slowly in great pain. They exist now as memories in the minds of their surviving friends.

That’s when we found out that marijuana is one of the most powerful wonderful medicines there ever was. The munchies were a medical miracle. In fact, during those dark years cannabis was the safest and most commonly used medication for AIDS patients. As it turned out, the doctors had fancy words for all the qualities we used to joke about when we were just “getting high.” It eased nausea, reduced pressure in glaucoma patients’ eyes, and its qualities as a euphoria promoting agent could bring laughter to the dying. Those diagnosed with cancer were the next obvious demographic to jump on the bandwagon followed closely by glaucoma and multiple sclerosis patients. When the alcoholics and the people in treatment for mental health issues started talking to their doctors the truth was revealed: all use is medical.

So the AIDS epidemic opened our eyes to the truth about cannabis. We finally put the confused rhetoric behind us telling the world who we were and what we wanted in clear precise language. That was the origin of the Compassionate Use Act of 1996 and when 5 ½ million Californians (56%) voted it into law we figured federal rescheduling would be right around the corner. That was 18 years ago. What went wrong?

Curiously, we are seeing a high powered revival of those same clichés and stereotypes that enabled President Nixon to say pot is not a medicine when he put it on Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act where it remains to this day. Millions of dollars per year are now being spent through public relations and legal professionals to convince America that cannabis is not a medicine but a “recreational drug” being used for trivial reasons. In some states we’re legislating this point of view.

Ironically this successful ongoing effort to misdirect America’s attention away from rescheduling is being marketed as an effort to” legalize marijuana for recreational purposes.” And that sophisticated little twist of phrase is the magical incantation that stops rescheduling cold in its tracks while disguising that malicious genie of prohibition in such innocuous terms as “regulate, control and tax.” The new narrative, an inexhaustible source of confusion, claims “limited medical use” was just a stepping stone to “widespread recreational use.”

What does this new direction mean to a cancer patient entering chemotherapy or alcoholic using cannabis as an alternative to drinking? It means they are going to be a big herd of cash cows. And if they break any of the restrictions designed to keep the price of their medicine high, then they get treated like criminals. Since that is the outcome we are trying to put behind us it is hard not to see this as a U-turn returning us to a very dark place in recent history.

Are we really going to force seniors treating glaucoma to lie, to have to claim to be recreating when they use cannabis? Are we going to smash their doors down and point loaded guns at their heads if they have too much? Yes we certainly will, we’ve done it before and we’ll do it again.

Thus when the smoke clears we see that so called legalization maintains many key problems of prohibition. First we rebrand cannabis as “anything but medicine.” Then we control, regulate and tax it keeping the price high, the black market thriving and the prisons full. Instead of rescheduling the federal government just suspends enforcement of a few laws on a temporary state by state negotiated basis. Abracadabra! Marijuana stays on Schedule I, right where President Nixon categorized it in 1972.

So here we are today, arrested in a state of empty verbiage. I call it magic and misdirection but Noam Chomsky calls it manufacturing consent. Edward Bernays called it propaganda before rebranding it public relations after Hitler and Goebbels gave the trick such a bad name. Call it what you will but this is why the public is no longer even demanding rescheduling of cannabis and that is not only unfortunate, it is also by design.

The authors can be reached at: castrocastle@gmail.com & www.marijuana.org


About Author

Johnny Green


  1. Roger Turner on

    I happen to agree with almost all of the comments here in some point or another specialy on replacing drinking or smoking I can smoke and still drive I cannot drink and drive worth a shit some can my bro could but cirrhosis killed him never heard of any person getting that from smoking weed I have ptsd and diagnosed parkinsonism when I smoke I don’t shake and vibrate this is a reality for me it is a miracle its illegal in texas with my recent move not available so I am on for legalization asap not like it will be today or tomarrow but hope it is soon I think many can see my point of view I feel I need its calming effect while our gov drags its feet for how long duhh

  2. Ian Mackenzie on

    well put, my recreational use over 40 yrs has also be medical, either way I like it makes me feel good.
    End the prohibition

  3. Cannabis is certainly better for your body than (Schedule II) Vicodin, for example. Plus it is an excellent stress-reliever, and stress is a legitimate medical issue, isn’t it?

  4. I am glad you mentioned integrative medicine. Deepak Chopra, Dean Ornish, and countless other M.D.s are over the moon about the health benefits of meditation. Cannabis has been used as a meditation aid in India (and several other Asian countries) for dozens of centuries. Thus, the federal government’s stance that cannabis has no medical uses is patently ridiculous. We SHOULD be having a serious discussion about re-classification, as the authors of this article suggest.

    Since you are looking for contemporary literature on the subject, you might be interested in this account of an American Hindu’s “pot as soul-medicine” habit: tinyurl.com/k7jqpg3

  5. I am glad you mentioned ingesting cannabis as an alternative to drinking. As an alcoholic who switched from booze to pot when it became legal (I am fortunate enough to live in Seattle), I can attest not only to radical improvements to my physical health, but also to my spirit.

    Here are a few things I have learned over the past year and a half:

    Marijuana, like alcohol, is a social lubricant–but instead of arguments it provokes meaningful conversations.

    One doesn’t have to get super wrecked, one can just puff a bit, whereas drinking inevitably leads to more drinking.

    Ganja enhances enjoyment of music, and facilitates the creation of art.

    Weed helps one to appreciate nature, that is, to harmonize with the energy of the universe and everything in it.

    Herb encourages auto-psychotherapy; it is a meditation aid and a conduit to iGod.

    The right strain of sativa is an exercise stimulant and concentration aid.

    Being stoned is fun, and it is far cheaper, healthier, and less dangerous than drinking.

    What are the cons?

    Certain strains do cause sloth.

    Being stoned is like dreaming awake, in that you can’t always recall the train of your conscious thoughts.

    What’s the conclusion?


    From: ‘The Winter of Menthol Spliffs’ (One Seattle Stoner’s Gonzo Evidence: Marijuana’s Many Benefits)

  6. You mean because the jails are full and they are building more. I think it’s the medical use that has exposed the contradiction of class 1 drug, and why does no one see the irony of alchohal use as drug abuse, no medical value for hard booze, maybe antiseptic for flesh wounds, all use of canabis is medicinal, except overuse, which is just wasting it

  7. I think in the end we both agree that canabis should be legal, in all ways and forms, I won’t argue that, but to say that most of the people that are seeking it for medical reason, are just using it for recreation, is false and disingenuous. Perhaps we have a difference of opinion of what we both assume will happen if medical mj is accepted. What is high, is it intoxication, is it a heightened awareness, I feel that once people see that being under the influence of canabis is so benign that total legalization will follow, and the great lie will be realized. Sorry for the insult, when you have been told all your life, it’s drug abuse not medicine, and you have real anidoltal evidence, and you live in a phamicuetical nightmare, you get a little touchy

  8. You totally missed my point. I agreed medical marijuana is important, but as a strategy, it will end up being restricted to the point of ineffectiveness.

    We already see that with the states now making medical marijuana programs that only allow CBD.

    The ONLY thing that really frees medical marijuana patients is to end ALL of the fraudulent marijuana prohibition.

    Save the insults. They only make it look like you have no arguments.

  9. Maybe you say that because you have not seen a dysfunctional disabled person use canabis and turn the corner of wellness vs abject misery. Talking like that hurts those of use whom need canabis and have tried everything. It’s also just your opinion and ignorant opinions like ass holes everybody has one and they stink

  10. Karen Ferguson on

    Oh…thank you! Just joined your tweets.
    Now, do I have any book you might need? On my way to http….

  11. The truth is our economy is largely built on the war on marijuana consumers. See Catherine Austin Fitt’s excellent article:

    “Narco Dollars For Beginners.”
    – keeping in mind that while Fitts employs cocaine because it best suits her metaphor, FBI statistics show marijuana sales comprise 80 percent of all “illegal” drug transactions.


    That’s where all the resistance has come from. But even that great force cannot hold against truth and justice anymore.

    But it is taking a herculean effort to turn the ship of state (and economy) around. That’s why Obama simply saying “Marijuana is not any more harmful than alcohol” – brought great howls up from those trying (futilely) to protect the status quo.

    Re-legalization is happening, but the pace is glacier-like because so many economic models have to be re-tooled, assets must be shifted and golden parachutes must be packed.

  12. Uncle Arthur on

    I think the authors of this article are part of the problem instead of the solution. They make recreational out to be a dirty word. They both seem to have a Calvinist mentality towards marijuana. Marijuana is fungible and while I concede that they are many wonderful medicinal uses, it shouldn’t be straightjacketed into a Calvinistic “All use is Medical” paradigm. Dennis Peron opposed prop 19 claiming that “All use is medical”, totally ignoring the inconvenient truth that most people that voted for medical marijuana were recreational users.
    I admired Peron for his efforts in the past, but siding with prohibitionists like the California Correctional Officers Union, the alcohol lobby and the rehab cult to shoot down legalization and continue the criminalization of rec users was despicable and unforgivable.
    I think it’s awfully Alice and Wonderlandish of them to insinuate that being for legalization is somehow supporting prohibition. The only thing that I agree with them on is that Cannabis has no business being on Schedule I.

  13. Sorry. I totally disagree with this rant. – Medical marijuana is important, but it is a small side issue compared to recreational marijuana. And the truth is, most customers of medical dispensaries are there for recreational purposes – whether they have a legitimate “qualifying condition” or not.

    The road ahead for just medical marijuana ends up with the whole plant gone – replaced by derivatives and synthetics, and eventually with the pesky “high” removed. We need to leap off that road NOW. – The best way to free medical marijuana patients – so they can have maximum control and continued access to the whole plant – is to simply end the fraudulent, counter-productive prohibition in its entirety.

    I appreciate Peron’s contributions of the last century, because they inspired the re-ignition of marijuana reform – NOT just medical marijuana reform.

    Most of the support for medical marijuana comes from those who just want to move the amazing plant back as far as possible to its traditionally legal status.

    It’s particularly ludicrous to be singing “medical marijuana only,” when we have just achieved freedom for ALL marijuana consumers in Colorado and Washington state.

    It seems Peron is advocating for retreat that will end up leaving the great bulk of marijuana consumers as “criminals” and second-class citizens.

    Sorry, Dennis. We have now moved on, and there’s no turning back.

  14. Marijuana decriminalization had been going on from several years. Two states have defied the odds and legalized recreational use. Still the feds haven’t made a move on dropping the schedule 1 classification. There is more here than meets the eye. I can see an ultimate figure controlling these decisions. Someone or something that controls our Politician and they want to keep it/them from public knowledge. We have hit a sore spot in politics and the feds don’t want to talk about it. This is only the beginning of finding the truth on who really runs this country, because its not “we the people”.

  15. Cannabis shall be removed from CSA “Schedule I”, and placed in “CSA Subchapter I, Part A, §802. Definitions, paragraph (6)”, appended to the list “distilled spirits, wine, malt beverages, or tobacco”, where it will STILL be the least-toxic in the category [by several orders of magnitude].

    In other words, EXEMPT from CSA scheduling.

    Anything short of THAT is UNACCEPTABLE.


  16. Karen Ferguson on

    This is the most concise, straightest-shooting article I’ve seen in a long time about the history/medicinal properties of medical cannabis. I say we “MOVE” far far away of assuming a stance of “sheepishness” regarding our belief in integrative medicine [recreational use and otherwise] and away from “big pharma” which I’ve always believed we needed to be wary of. There’s a HUGE picture here and mcannabis is simply in the middle of the picture: as in mind-mapping. The ripple effect of this breakthrough is going to be felt for a long time and in ways I can’t fathom at this time. I’m excited though.

    More of this, Mr. Green, please. I need to read it.

    Now, I need books on Medical cannabis and there are none at the library and the used book shops say they go through them fast. Please suggest 2 books on the healing attributes of mc, history of use in different cultures and 2 books on basic recipes.

    I looked at some of the texts used at Oaksterdam Univ. in Oakland and they look pretty good. The authors have been in the movement for a long, long time…and involved. Sadly, I wasn’t conscious enough to be ‘involved’ during the legalization process. My data was 15 years old: Andrew Weil,MD’s beliefs that mc helped glaucoma and a few other diseases/conditions. Two months into my study, I find out that the list has grown from 8-10 to over 40 conditions. I don’t want to get caught ‘behind the eight ball’ again. i hope to make up for it now and hopefully be ‘of service’ like those ahead of me.

    I can only go basic, at this time. If anyone wants to share books I’d be ever-so-grateful. I have a lot of books on health, raw foodism, vegetarianism etc. etc….we could trade. That’s another thing I would appreciate…chuckle. I need a job. :-)

    I pray I haven’t broken any posting rules. I love this site: it’s helped me sooo much. I’m still lost, but it’s okay…i see the outline of a path.


  17. Roger Turner on

    well I myself use it for medical reasons does that mean its a bad thing that I enjoy the buzz well that is what medicine does for us it makes us feel better so how about making a statement like there is no such thing as recreational use its like you have a headache you take an asperin so you feel better so you smoke a joint so you can feel better is feeling better a medical thing?

  18. Johnny Bloomington on

    Yeah I know. I’m not saying there isn’t medical value in Cannabis. I’m just sick of everyone, including pro-pot people, trying to make it fit in some ideological box with a shiny label. Cannabis is a lot of things to a lot of people.

  19. The US owns a patent for Medical type use of cannabinoids. One parameter that has to be met for a drug to be a schedule 1 drug is that it have no medical value. It looks like the US government likes to Mind fu~k everybody.

  20. Johnny Bloomington on

    “all use is medical”… no it’s not! I don’t need to smoke weed. I choose to because it’s fun. Hats off to medical for getting to ball rolling but stop trying to hit the brakes because there are other users out there. It’s like saying all food is medical! So you may get some nutritional value from pizza but at the end of the day, pizza just tastes good!

    Rec users want to reschedule too so I don’t know where you’re getting that from. Because of recreational, there’s more pressure now to reschedule than ever before.

  21. “Re-equating” recreational and medical use, to say “all use is medical” — it’s far, far too late for that.

    Most people who oppose the “devil weed” aren’t patient enough for a history lesson, and their attitudes aren’t shaped by history as much as by tradition. It’s become tradition in socially conservative parts of the country that anything which feels too good is morally wrong, and anyone who seeks out unapproved happiness is stigmatized as “other” in some way (hippy, addict, criminal) and driven off. In their minds, “all use is recreational” and recreational is bad.

    Yes, that attitude is rooted in the Nixon “Silent Majority” years. However, I don’t think a lesson in historical semantics can overwrite decades of socially conservative tradition. Puritans are puritans, whether you’re discussing cannabis or contraception — to them, if it feels good, it should be illegal, and anyone who says otherwise is “other” and thus, the enemy.

    It’s too late to actively recolor all cannabis use as medical use because that won’t defuse puritan fascism. The only way to do that is to continue doing what I believe has been chipping away at the “Silent Majority” for the last 40 years — popularizing the notion that feeling good and being happy is not inherently evil.

    Even in the South, it’s becoming increasingly unpopular to be a hardliner prescriptive moralist because of the negative attention garnered by groups like the Westboro Baptist Church. The travesty of the “Silent Majority” has been the obstreperousness of their ever-shrinking voting block. The WBC is walking proof that the “Silent Majority” hasn’t been a majority (or silent) in a very long time. They’re losing the culture war by attrition, slowly but surely.

  22. Tick, tock, tick, tock. Times a wastin’, lives a taken. Baby steps, slow down, we don’t know the repercussions. Too bad now, that baby never stepped, a death sentence, without that medicine. (Some say)We’ll just wait and see; (Others)only CBD. No, no, no. It’s the Whole plant, see. With its entourage. Our bodies designed, all of mankind, with the key to unlock, the power that is the endocannabanoid system. We weren’t created before plants. That’s how long our relationship is. The time is now.

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