Has the time come to remove marijuana from Minnesota’s “Schedule 1” of the Minnesota Controlled Substances Act? Here is an explanation of why; and how we can.
Minnesota vs. federal: The Minnesota Controlled Substances Act is Minnesota Statutes Chapter 152. And it is similar to the Federal Controlled Substances Act, 21 United States Code Sections 801 et seq.
After all, they both create lists, or “schedules” of drugs other than alcohol and tobacco, numbered one through five. But one is federal. And the other is state.
Arbitrary Definitions, in need of reform
The definition of drugs listed in Schedule 1:
- high potential for abuse, or
- no currently accepted medical use in treatment in USA, or
- lacks accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision.
Examples of Schedule 1 drugs include the opiates, such as heroin, morphine, etc.
The definition of “Schedule 2” drugs:
- high potential for abuse, or
- currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, or
- currently accepted medical use with severe restrictions, and, abuse of drug may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence.
Examples of Schedule 2 drugs include cocaine, methamphetamine, and phenobarbital.
But Schedules 3 and 4 is to include drugs less harmful or prone to abuse.
And Schedule 5 includes drug the government thinks are:
- less dangerous or prone to abuse,
- with currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, or
- abuse of the drug or other substance may lead to limited physical dependence or psychological dependence.
Some “scheduled” drugs are available by prescription. And these are also called “legend” drugs.
And of course, many drugs are not on any of these “schedules.” These include over-the-counter medications, and caffeine.
But caffeine causes dozens of overdose deaths in the USA each year.
In contrast, marijuana and THC never have. There is no proven case of deadly toxic dose when comes to marijuana and THC. So, marijuana and THC are safer than unscheduled drugs, like coffee and caffeine.
Marijuana & THC in Minnesota’s Schedule 1
Where has the government seen fit to categorize marijuana and THC within this scheme?
Currently, they still list marijuana as a “Schedule 1” category drug, right in there with heroin. So, the government claims marijuana is more dangerous than methamphetamine; which is only a Schedule 2 drug.
But what difference does that make? Lots.
And here are two big ways it makes a difference, where the government legally categorizes marijuana:
- harming public safety with criminalization, and
- harming public health by creating legal barrier to medical treatment.
But removing marijuana and THC from all “Schedules,” alone, would have limited impact on criminalization.
After all, most controlled substance crimes specifically name “marijuana,” in addition to “Schedule 1” drugs. So, removing marijuana alone from Minnesota’s Schedule 1; would not automatically remove “marijuana” from Minnesota’s Controlled Substance Crimes, First through Fifth Degree.
And just moving it from Schedule 1 to Schedule 2 would make little difference, as far as the criminal laws.
Descheduling: But removing marijuana and THC from Minnesota’s Controlled Substances Act Schedules completely, would. It would recognize that medical marijuana is currently an accepted medical treatment of disease in the United States.
Lack of rational basis: Schedule 1
Irrational laws: How can Minnesota have a legal medical marijuana program; yet still also have marijuana listed as a “Schedule 1 drug” at the same time?
The law lacks a rational basis. After all, their “Schedule 1” definition is “no currently accepted medical use in treatment.” But marijuana is a “currently accepted medical treatment.” And Minnesota’s other law; its medical cannabis law recognizes this!
Moreover, is Schedule 1 marijuana really more dangerous than Schedule 2’s methamphetamine? Of course not.
After all, most of the 50 states now have legal medical marijuana programs. And most of the U.S. population live in states where medical marijuana is legal today. “No currently accepted medical use in treatment?” Really?
To the contrary, across the United States; marijuana is a currently accepted medical treatment. And allowing inertia to continue marijuana in Schedule 1 harms the public health of the people of Minnesota. For example, it creates innumerable difficulties for sick people who are just trying to treat their illness, including insurance issues. But that’s unfair to the ill and low-income disabled. Because the law pushes them into the illegal market for medicine.
Or, we could take our laws seriously, and change them to reflect reality and truth.
Minnesota can Deschedule; no need to wait for feds
So, we need to amend Minnesota law to remove marijuana and THC from Schedule 1, by completely descheduling. Let’s remove it from all Minnesota Controlled Substances Act schedules.
A bipartisan Bill introduced into the United States House would move marijuana from the federal Schedule 1 to Schedule 2. It’s titled the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States or “CARERS” Act.
But Minnesota need not wait for the federal laws to change.
We can get this done at Minnesota state legislature
And we can urge the Minnesota Senate and Minnesota House to pass a Bill to completely deschedule marijuana and THC.
Remember, in 2011, the Minnesota legislature changed the law stripping Minnesota Pharmacy Board’s authority to move drugs out of Schedule 1. So only the Minnesota legislature can do it now. And we can demand that they do so.
What can you do?
Pick up the phone, send a letter, or contact your Minnesota State Senator and House Representative. And ask them to support a Bill to deschedule marijuana. Moreover, you can support candidates for public office who support descheduling marijuana and THC. This medical marijuana law reform is long overdue.
And join Minnesota NORML and other advocates of civil rights reforms. Legalization – together, we can do it.
About the Author
Thomas C. Gallagher is a Minnesota Defense Attorney representing people facing marijuana criminal charges.