The potential detriment of half-measured marijuana reform was addressed by Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz (R) as he used a guest host gig to push for actual decriminalization.
“Rescheduling marijuana…just rebrands it.”
After initiating a review process last October, President Joe Biden’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) advanced a recommendation at the end of August to reschedule marijuana in accordance with the Controlled Substances Act. On Monday, Gaetz filled in as host of “Greg Kelly Reports” on Newsmax where he agreed with the idea that anything short of full removal would merely be playing into the hands of the pharmaceutical industry.
To start, he contended, “Perhaps the worst decision made by the U.S. government in 1970 was to begin the war on drugs through the Controlled Substances Act.”
Making note of the dramatic rise in drug-related deaths over the past 20 years from less than 20,000 to nearly 120,000, Gaetz highlighted the classification of marijuana as it related to other controlled substances.
“Now, in 1970 marijuana was scheduled as a Schedule I drug on par with heroin. Schedule II drugs were viewed as less dangerous, they include meth, cocaine and, astonishingly, fentanyl. You heard that right,” he remarked. “To believe that marijuana is somehow more dangerous than fentanyl would require a hallucination more disorienting than a weekend with Charlie Sheen in a peyote den.”
The congressman was then joined by attorney and marijuana advocate John Morgan, a supporter of Biden, who said, “I have been talking to the president about this before he was president. Every time I’ve seen him, I bring it up, and all I can say is it’s high time. Excuse the pun.”
The attorney further stated, “It’s a step in the right direction. It has to happen,” before he argued that other industries stood to gain only if marijuana remained a controlled substance.
Pointing to studies in Israel, Morgan detailed that similar research could not be conducted in the United States because of the drug’s Schedule I status. Should it be moved to Schedule III instead of being removed from the Controlled Substances Act, Big Pharma will have the opportunity to corner the market, he argued.
“Who doesn’t want it studied? The makers of Wild Turkey. The makers of the pharmaceutical drugs. The makers of opioids…The danger is not marijuana,” stated Morgan. “The danger is the pharmaceutical industry and the liquor industry. Marijuana is nothing.”
Last week, after HHS Assistant Secretary Rachel Levine had written to the Drug Enforcement Administration in support of the rescheduling, a spokesperson for the DEA told Politico, “As part of this process, HHS conducted a scientific and medical evaluation for consideration by DEA. DEA has the final authority to schedule or reschedule a drug under the Controlled Substances Act. DEA will now initiate its review.”
Meanwhile, another marijuana advocate, Justin Strekal, told the outlet Wednesday that the move fell short of Biden keeping a campaign promise. “Rescheduling cannabis from 1 to 3 does not end criminalization, it just rebrands it. People will still be subject to criminal penalties for mere possession, regardless of their legal status in a state-level medical program.”
Gaetz agreed with that take as he told Morgan, “Well, I totally concur with the assessment that marijuana reform is often blocked by Big Pharma because they want the opportunity to control it. My concern is that if we don’t go any further than moving marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule III, that could potentially allow Big Pharma to control it.”
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