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Tuesday, October 27, 2020


Controlled Substance Act needs sweeping changes

In October 1970, Title 21 of Controlled Substance Act was put into effect and established what would be the legal criteria for classifying substances for the next half a century.

There are five schedules that go in descending order — from high potential for abuse with no medical benefits to low potential for abuse with medical benefits. This system is irreparably broken and should be done away with altogether.

In a statement last year, the Drug Enforcement Administration issued a warning about the trend of heroin being laced with fentanyl, a drug that is 30 to 50 times more powerful than heroin and manufactured by pharmaceutical companies.

The irony is that fentanyl is a schedule-II drug (high potential for abuse, accepted in medical use with severe restrictions and high dependence rate upon abuse) while heroin remains a schedule-I drug (high potential for abuse, no medical use, lack of safety in use).

In fact, some stalwart examples of schedule-I drugs like marijuana, psilocybin mushrooms and LSD have no recorded clinical deaths due to the drug’s direct effects. The majority of the more than 50 drugs classified as schedule II and schedule III can’t boast the same claim. In fact, these three specific drugs have been cited by doctors across the U.S. as having major potential health benefits, but the drugs’ illegality poses difficulty in researching them.

Most recently, the DEA rescinded its push to place a currently legal powdered plant, kratom, on the schedule-I list after significant pushback in the form of a petition, which garnered more than 140,000 signatures since Aug. 30. Some recovering addicts claim the plant has the potential to help them taper off harder-to-quit drugs like heroin.

The DEA claimed the plant was involved in a total 15 deaths. Under scrutiny, however, 14 of those incidents involved other drugs. The ideology of criminalizing and “emergency scheduling” any substance without significant research and pretending like there will be future research is asinine.

I would be hard-pressed to think that anyone who’s seen the effects of cocaine or meth would think that those drugs are less dangerous than marijuana. Yet, as far as the drug-scheduling list is concerned, they are.

There have been five amendments to the Controlled Substances Act since it was put into place 46 years ago. The act is coming up on half a century in age and is as archaic as ever.

The “war on drugs” brought with it the idea that drugs were a thing to be outlawed. From an anthropological standpoint, humans have always sought out mind-altering substances. A good example of that notion is the prevalence of alcohol in prehistoric societies — as well as our own.

From hedonistic pursuits to religious ceremonies, to criminalize drugs is to criminalize a part of humanity. While I understand that legalizing all substances and their use is impractical, but to base drug laws off of the Controlled Substances Act’s severely misguided federal scheduling has seriously negative effects.

This also lets pharmaceutical companies save face by glossing over the number of deaths caused by their products each year.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that “from 1999 to 2014, more than 165,000 people have died in the U.S. from overdoses related to prescription opioids.” Meanwhile, the DEA is looking for the next scapegoat substance to outlaw.

The drug scheduling isn’t based off of objective criteria. It has no place in determining laws that effect the public.

Opinion columnist Nicholas Bell is an MBA graduate student and can be reached at [email protected].


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