Rep. Steve Cohen to U.S. drug czar: Pot not as dangerous as heroin

By Eric W. Dolan
Tuesday, September 13, 2011 20:00 EDT
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Tennessee Congressman Steven Cohen (D) urged Gil Kerlikowske, the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, to reclassify marijuana as a Schedule V substance in a letter sent Monday.

Marijuana is currently a Schedule I drug under the federal Control Substances Act. Schedule I is the most restrictive classification, reserved drugs with a high potential for abuse and no accepted medicinal value.

“Marijuana does not belong on Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) alongside such hard drugs as cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine,” Cohen said. “There is no evidence that marijuana has the same addictive qualities or damaging consequences as these harder drugs and it should not be treated as such.”

“Similarly, the so-called ‘Gateway Drug’ theory has been thoroughly discredited with respect to marijuana. Marijuana ought to be placed at the lowest end of the CSA in accordance with its true risks.”

The Drug Enforcement Administration denied a nine-year-old petition to initiate proceedings to reschedule marijuana in late June, claiming that, “marijuana has a high potential for abuse, has no accepted medical use in the United States, and lacks an acceptable level of safety for use even under medical supervision.”

The use of medical marijuana has been legalized in 16 states and the District of Columbia.

“I also urge you to consider the cost to law enforcement incurred by pursuing non-violent drug offenders,” Cohen continued. “For example, some estimates place the total criminal justice costs of marijuana arrests for state and local governments at as much as $7.6 billion per year.

“With more than 850,000 people arrested for a marijuana violation in 2009, we are spending nearly $10,000 per arrest, which is a huge waste of scarce resources.”

Despite the large sums of money being spend on the war on drugs, reports have found that illicit drug use is increasing and drug cartels have rapidly expanded within the U.S.

Rep. Steve Cohen’s full letter can be read here.

Eric W. Dolan
Eric W. Dolan
Eric W. Dolan has served as an editor for Raw Story since August 2010, and is based out of Sacramento, California. He grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and received a Bachelor of Science from Bradley University. Eric is also the publisher and editor of PsyPost. You can follow him on Twitter @ewdolan.
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