The Supreme Court ruling that federal authorities have the power to prosecute the use of medical marijuana reopened longstanding questions, says Danielle Piomelli of the University of California at Irvine in the Washington Post. What kind of scientific data exist to clarify just how useful or harmful marijuana actually is?, she asks. Why does the Drug Enforcement Administration assign it to the same class of controlled substances as heroin and LSD?
Piomelli, who heads a lab funded by the National Institutes of Health to study how drugs act on the brain, says that pot is a “Janus-faced drug that has many adverse or even dangerous properties, even as it presents an exciting and largely untapped therapeutic potential.” She says science’s ability to tap marijuana’s potential is inhibited by the DEA’s inappropriate classification of it as a Schedule I controlled substance. Although marijuana can produce a variety of undesirable effects in humans and can cause addiction, she says, it appears to have significant medical benefits. Since the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) became law in 1970, both marijuana and its component THC have been listed on Schedule I — the list of drugs “with a high potential for abuse” and with “no currently accepted medical use.” After reviewing the research, Piomelli concludes that “the data obviously contradict that assessment.”