The Feds Get a Bit Snarky on Medical Marijuana

It’s probably not news to anyone that the federal government doesn’t much care for marijuana. It’s a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law (see 21 U.S.C. § 812(c)(I)(c)(10)), which, according to 21 U.S.C. § 812(b)(1), means that:

(A) The drug or other substance has a high potential for abuse.

(B) The drug or other substance has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.

(C) There is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision.

A fair number of doctors would most likely disagree with (B) and (C) there, and I don’t know much about (A)’s truth (as compared to its truthiness).

Federal courts have repeatedly held, however, that Congress has the authority to designate marijuana as a Schedule I drug, whether Congress has any clue what it’s talking about or not (see Alliance for Cannabis Therapeutics v. DEA, 15 F.3d 1131 (D.C. Cir. 1994); Gonzalez v. Raich, 545 U.S. 1 (2005)). Back in April, a federal judge declined to rule that marijuana’s Schedule I classification was unconstitutional in a 38-page order (PDF file) (see the court’s blog, or this page at The Daily Chronic, for more info on that case).

As more and more states pass laws allowing the use of marijuana for medical reasons, or for whatever the hell reason you want, it gets a bit more complicated for the federal government to enforce its laws and regulations. That must be frustrating, but they don’t have to get all snarky about it. Observe:

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The federal Department of Transportation (DOT) issues regulations related to drug use and drug testing for people who work in various transportation-related fields, like railroads and such. This includes mandatory drug testing in certain situations. The Department of Justice issued new guidelines in 2009 (PDF file) after states started enacting medical marijuana laws, in an effort to at least try to reconcile state and federal laws. This led to some questions, I guess, about how the DOT would respond to the new state laws. Short answer: it won’t.

This notice from the DOT states that it is not changing its regulations or policies to adapt to new state laws. DOT regulations specifically prohibit people administering drug tests from considering a person’s lawful prescription for medical marijuana if they have a positive drug test (see 49 C.F.R. § 40.151(e)).

Where it gets snarky is in the title: DOT ‘Medical’ Marijuana Notice.

What’s up with the scare quotes around the word “medical”?

I guess, since a Schedule I controlled substances have “no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States,” marijuana must not have any legitimate medical uses since it is a Schedule I controlled substance. If federal regulators want to avoid any sort of cognitive dissonance, I suppose, it might be easiest for them to act like there is nothing “medical” about it. It makes them look like dicks, but I guess if that’s how they think they should run their Cabinet department, then that’s what they’re gonna do.


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