from the king-of-pain dept.
By the time Ann Marie Owen, 61, turned to marijuana to treat her pain, she was struggling to walk and talk. She was also hallucinating. For four years, her doctor prescribed a wide range of opioids for transverse myelitis, a debilitating disease that caused pain, muscle weakness and paralysis. The drugs not only failed to ease her symptoms, they hooked her.
When her home state of New York legalized marijuana for the treatment of select medical ailments, Owens decided it was time to swap pills for pot. But her doctors refused to help. "Even though medical marijuana is legal, none of my doctors were willing to talk to me about it," she says. "They just kept telling me to take opioids."
Although 29 states have legalized marijuana to treat pain and other ailments, the growing number of Americans like Owen who use marijuana and the doctors who treat them are caught in the middle of a conflict in federal and state laws — a predicament that is only worsened by thin scientific data.
Because the federal government considers marijuana a Schedule 1 drug, research on marijuana or its active ingredients is highly restricted and even discouraged in some cases. Underscoring the federal government's position, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar recently pronounced that there was "no such thing as medical marijuana."
U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has come out in support of federal cannabis decriminalization, just in time for 4/20:
The Minority Leader of the Senate is making it official the day before 4/20: He's down with legal weed. In an exclusive interview with VICE News, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) confirmed he is putting his name on legislation that he said is aimed at "decriminalizing" marijuana at the federal level. For Schumer, this is a shift. While he has backed medical marijuana and the rights of states to experiment with legal sales of pot, what he is proposing is a seismic shift in federal drug policy.
"Ultimately, it's the right thing to do. Freedom. If smoking marijuana doesn't hurt anybody else, why shouldn't we allow people to do it and not make it criminal?" Schumer said.
The legislation should be available within a week or so, and would remove cannabis (still listed as "Marihuana") from the Drug Enforcement Administration's list of Schedule I substances. States would then be free to regulate or continue to prohibit the plant. Cannabis advertising would be regulated as are alcohol and tobacco advertising. (Also at NPR, CNN, The Washington Post, and CNBC, as well as Reason taking a shot at Schumer for not doing it sooner.)
A majority of Americans support the legalization of cannabis, including, for the first time, a majority (51%) of Republicans, according to Gallup. Nine states and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis for recreational use. 29 states, D.C., Guam, and Puerto Rico have legalized medical use of cannabis, and another 17 states have legalized the use of cannabidiol (CBD). Cannabis became available for recreational purposes in California on January 1.