Marijuana Will Be Reclassified in Oregon From a Schedule 1 Drug to a Lower Classification
In 1970, the Unites States Congress passed the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act which completely revamped the way that drugs were controlled in the United States. One of the major features of the act was to place both prescription and illicit drugs into one of five “schedules” which determined the severity of punishments for unlawful possession, delivery or manufacture of these drugs. The primary criteria for scheduling drugs was to rank them based on their accepted medical usefulness and their potential for abuse and addiction. Schedule 1 drugs have no recognized medical use and severe potential for abuse and addiction and Schedule 5 drugs have recognized medical uses.
There was some measure of hysteria at the time drugs were placed in the schedules. Many in the political establishment saw marijuana as an extremely dangerous drug. As a result marijuana was placed in Schedule 1 based on a conclusion that it had a high potential for abuse, had no accepted medical use and could not be used safely even under medical supervision. Essentially, the federal government treats marijuana the same as heroin. The states, by and large, adopted the federal schedules in setting the severity of penalties under the laws of the individual states.
With a growing number of states legalizing marijuana for medical use the Schedule 1 classification for marijuana has created an anomaly. Under the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act, Oregon voters have expressly recognized that marijuana does have medicinal uses and can be used safely. Yet, Oregon law still punishes illegal manufacture, delivery and possession of marijuana as though it were a Schedule 1 drug with no medical use and a high abuse potential.
In 2009 the Oregon Legislature passed a new law directing the Oregon State Board of Pharmacy to hold hearings and reschedule marijuana in accord with the current knowledge of its medical usefulness and its true potential for abuse. In the same law the legislature also order the Board of Pharmacy to classify methamphetamine as a Schedule 1 drug.
In May of 2010, the Board accepted public comments and took testimony to gather information on the appropriate schedule for marijuana. The Board will likely issue their decision in June of 2010. If the Board places marijuana in Schedule 3 or lower, it could force changes in the criminal code and lower the penalties for manufacture or delivery of marijuana to the misdemeanor level.
The ultimate changes will have to be made by the legislature when they meet in 2011, since the specific laws setting the penalties for marijuana drug crimes will remain in place until changed by legislative act.
It does seem certain that the Schedule 1 designation for marijuana will soon be a thing of the past. With better information and less hysteria the Board will be better able to make a rational assessment of marijuana’s uses and abuse potential.