Features & Columns

Feds Continue Schedule I
Absurdity with Pot

The DEA reaffirmed its position that another widely used substance
is too dangerous to be placed anywhere but Schedule I: marijuana.
The DEA insists weed should be Schedule I.

Schedule I drugs+ are scary stuff. They're substances the DEA has determined "have no currently accepted medical use and high potential for abuse." Like heroin or Quaaludes or MDMA.

Heroin is implicated in thousands of fatal drug overdoses every year. Nobody does 'ludes anymore. MDMA isn't addictive or nearly as deadly as heroin, but a few dozen people die under its influence every year.

The DEA just this month reaffirmed its position that another widely used substance is too dangerous to be placed anywhere but Schedule I: marijuana.

This is not the place for a comprehensive critique of the DEA's ability to properly schedule—or more properly, deschedule—marijuana, but here we have a story that illustrates the relative dangers of marijuana compared to some other Schedule I drugs.

As the Omaha World-Herald reports deadpan, police were called to a house last week to investigate an accidental overdose. The victim, a 53-year-old man, had found and devoured four brownies left in the back seat of a car by his adult kids. The man's wife told police he began feeling "bad anxiety" while watching TV, and she tried to call the kids to ask what was in the brownies, but got no answer. While police were at the scene, one of the children arrived and told them the brownies belonged to his siblings and he was "pretty sure it was just marijuana in the brownies." Here's the meat of the story:

Paramedics called to the scene who checked the man found his vital signs to be normal. But they noted that he was displaying odd behavior—crawling around on the floor, randomly using profanities and calling the family cat a "bitch."

The man told paramedics he felt like "he's trippin'." He declined their offer to be taken to the hospital.

The paramedics helped the man to his bedroom and told the man and his wife to call 911 again if his situation worsened.

The end. Well, not quite. The still anonymous victim has recovered fully and told the World-Herald in a followup article that even in the paranoid, delirious depths of his brownie poisoning, he realized that he wasn't having a stroke, a heart attack, or going insane. "Wowie," he realized. "I am really, really high."

Overdosing on marijuana may not be a laughing matter—it can involve panic attacks, paranoia, palpitations, severe anxiety, even hallucinations—but it isn't going to kill you. If you want a laughing matter, ponder placing marijuana in Schedule I, and keeping it there.

Phillip Smith is editor of the AlterNet Drug Reporter and author of the Drug War Chronicle.