DEA Delays Decision to Reschedule Marijuana…Again

marijuana buds

Right now, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug, right alongside heroin, LSD, peyote, and ecstasy. That’s more than a little ridiculous, considering Schedule I drugs are classified as such because they have “no medical use and a high potential for abuse.”

We know that marijuana does, in fact, have numerous medical uses.

Advocates had high hopes (no pun intended) that the DEA would reschedule marijuana down to a Schedule II drug sometime this summer at the urging of a group of Democratic senators. The agency had said in a memo to lawmakers that it would decide whether to make the long-overdue move “in the first half of 2016.”

We are now in the 2nd half of 2016, and the DEA just announced it was delaying the decision, yet again. The organization is now also saying that marijuana home grows are “the new meth houses.” [1]

Take California, for instance. In that state, laws prohibit the use of butane as part of the chemical process to create marijuana extracts. These extracts are used in oils and marijuana products – pretty much anything you can’t roll or put in a bong.

Of course, butane is used in lighters and is a highly flammable substance. Butane accidents are nasty, and some burn centers reported in 2015 that 10% of their cases were the results of butane-related hash oil explosions.

This year, under California’s butane prohibition law, hash oil extractors operating legally under the state’s medical marijuana laws, have had their facilities raided, there have been arrests, and facilities have been shut down, and some companies have faced civil asset forfeiture.

Now, usually this law applies to shutting down meth labs, but California law enforcement has been applying the law to hash manufacturing, as well. In some of the raids, DEA officials were on hand or involved in the raids.

Marijuana is still illegal at the federal level; however, there is a federal regulation that is intended to prevent the DEA from interfering or enforcing federal bans in states where marijuana has been legalized.

Officials claim the facilities are operating illegally, and not in compliance with how California set up its program. [2]

Marijuana Grows are Like Meth Labs?

Yes, butane accidents occur, but comparing marijuana grows to meth labs? Apart from butane, marijuana grows use dirt and water. Meth labs, on the other hand, well… let’s take a look at some of the ingredients commonly found in methamphetamine:

  • Acetone – found in nail polish remover and paint thinners)
  • Lithium – from batteries, such as those in laptops and cell phones
  • Toluene – solvent used as fuel additive, in paint thinners, nail polish, brake cleaner
  • Hydrochloric acid – a highly corrosive mineral acid used to remove rust from steel and fine metal
  • Pseudoephedrine – found in cold medicines (meth labs are the reason why pseudoephedrine-containing cold medicines are locked behind pharmacy doors and no longer available on store shelves)
  • Red phosphorus – found in explosives like road flares and on matchboxes
  • Sodium hydroxide – also called lye, which is found in drain cleaners
  • Sulfuric acid – found in toilet bowl and drain cleaners
  • Anhydrous ammonia – found in fertilizer and countertop cleaners
  • Lantern fuel or lighter fluid (butane)
  • Ether – found in starting fluid
  • Antifreeze
  • Iodine crystals [3]

Once you take a look at this list, you start to understand why so many meth labs blow up. Residues from methamphetamine and the chemicals used to make it often linger in homes used as meth labs and can cause serious health problems. [4]

One thing you don’t hear about: exploding marijuana grows.

A friend of mine who lives in California is renting a house that used to be a marijuana homegrow. Unlike a meth lab, the only thing leftover from the grow is fabulous soil that is sprouting enormous tomatoes for my friend and her roommates.

According to the DEA’s report comparing marijuana grows to meth labs, homegrown marijuana “presents potential risk to the occupants, homeowners, and neighbors of these residences, as well as to first responders who are called to them.”

The report goes on to say:

“Marijuana grows often cause extensive damage to the houses where they are maintained and are increasingly the causes of house fires, blown electrical transformers, and environmental damage.”

The agency also says local police “often receive numerous calls from neighbors about marijuana grow houses. Common complaints include strong odors, excessive noise from industrial air-conditioning units, blown electrical transformers, and heavy vehicle traffic.”

But Mason Tvert, of the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), points out that in Colorado, where marijuana is legal for both medical and recreational use, most of the marijuana growing has transitioned from homes and into “tightly controlled facilities.”

Tvert also points out that “If an adult is doing it [growing marijuana] privately and in accordance with state laws, it is no more dangerous than an adult brewing his or her own beer.” [5]

The DEA Should Stop Running from the Facts

If the DEA were to stop running from the facts about marijuana and rescheduled it from anything other than a Schedule I substance, it would finally be acknowledged for having healing properties, which would allow doctors nationwide to prescribe medical marijuana for patients.

People have some very strongly-held opinions about marijuana, but here are a few of the facts about this powerful healing plant:

This is a very small list of the health benefits of cannabis.

What is the DEA so afraid of? Why does it keep avoiding rescheduling marijuana, and why does it try to skirt federal regulations?

Until the DEA joins the 21st Century, patients around the country will have to wait and wonder when they will get their chance to treat their pain with one of the most natural medications on the planet.


[1] The Free Thought Project

[2] Reason

[2] New Hope Recovery Center

[4] Wisconsin Department of Health Services