Ethan Nadelmann responds to DEA claim that marijuana has no accepted medical use

[Video Link] Tony Papa of the Drug Policy Alliance says: "Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, responds to the recent decree by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) that marijuana has no accepted medical use. The decision by the DEA comes almost nine years after medical marijuana supporters asked the government to reclassify cannabis to take into account a growing body of research that shows its effectiveness in treating certain diseases. For more on this subject please go the July 14 LA Times piece titled 'Medical marijuana: A science-free zone at the White House' by DPA's Bill Piper and Stephen Gutwillig.

LA Times: Medical marijuana: A science-free zone at the White House


  1. To be fair to the DEA, they are being perfectly honest when they say “marijuana has no accepted medical use”. Refusing to accept any medical use for marijuana ensures that that will always be true.

  2. I think the evidence is pretty clear: there is no acceptable use for the DEA. As such it should remain a Schedule 1 governmental organization, i.e. a branch of the gov’t for which there is a high potential for abuse.

    1. So, we just put it on the same shelf as the TSA & DHS? Who’s going to dust it and remove all the cobwebs?

    1. Same as in Holland, it’s decriminalised, not legal.

      There’s always a bigger party that has a much larger interest in quashing drugs, than controlling them sensibly.

    2. UN-Anti-Drug-Treaties? Do you know where these come from? Yes, they were sponsored and advocated by US-American prohibitionists in the first place.

  3. What about Marinol?

    And what about all those psych drugs that say “may, or is thought too —” (do, act, perform. block, in a certain way)?

    So it’s O.K. to say psych drugs that “are thought too—-” have acceptable medical use? So it’s O.K. to approve a drug that has no actual facts about how they work or what they do and still call those “acceptable” and still add on more “acceptable” ways to use them or prescribe them?

    You know whose behind this…..BIG PHARMA!

    1. Saying a derivative is approved is not the same as saying the source is approved. Rattlesnake anti-venom is approved, but the horse blood it’s made from is not.

      The DEA is absolutely correct: there is no approved medical use for marijuana. Until someone bothers to submit phase 3 clinical data to the FDA, that will remain true. Same is true for any compound or any mixture of compounds, natural or synthetic, useful or not.

      If you want to change that, collect the money, run the tests, submit the application.

  4. Just floating this idea but why not organize ‘smoke ins?’ Gather as many card carrying med. marijuana users(and others that don’t mind being arrested) at places like DEA offices, etc. and just light up. It may not be the most ethical in regards to others that don’t like marijuana smoke but OTHO the people at DEA etc. aren’t acting in a very ethical or even rational manner either. So, yeah, how about it?

    And yeah, screw you big pharma you profiteering gluttons.

  5. What I don’t understand is why the Drug Enforcement Agency is making a determination that is up to the Department of Health and Human Services to make? Isn’t anyone over at DHHS going to say, “Hey, not your job, buddy”?

  6. Ha, like due process matters?

    If scientifically established fact has no bearing on the matter via all the proper channels, why should any petty departmental demarcation get in the way?

  7. Fuck the DEA. Corruption at its worst. I’m sure money from the prison-industrial complex was funneled up more than a few assholes within the DEA on this one.

    The only thing the DEA fears is transparency. Fucking scumbags will scurry like roaches if the public was ever able to shed a light on these bastards.

    It’s not bad enough people suffer and die in this country from a lack of a single payer system for healthcare… they also really need to turn the screws on medical marijuana users as well. Just twist that knife as you sink it in, you know?

    It’s time for revolution in America. This tyranny can’t stand any longer. Fuck this.

    1. This tyranny can’t stand any longer.

      You may stand a tiny chance of that if Murdoch’s empire crumbles and it isn’t replaced by something equally poisonous, and the vacuum is suddenly filled with stuff the elites don’t want…

      I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for the American sheeple to throw off the shackles of their many decades of conditioning, though.

  8. Meanwhile, Michelle Leonhart sticks her fingers in her ears and yells “La la la la, I can’t hear you, la la la”

  9. Legalize drugs NOW. Especially Marijuana. The fact people die and are in jail over weed is asinine.

  10. Bleating into the wind.

    Check out my links, folks.

    The illegality of recreational drugs is a cornerstone of the establishment, and will be defended to the hilt regardless of what it means for everyone but the elite.

    You want to solve this problem, start by figuring how to take down the whole military-industrial shitfight, starting with the banksters and their puppets in government.

    1. All you have to do to lose your democracy is to no longer believe in it.

      Just because you no longer believe in democracy, doesn’t mean it doesn’t work…you used to be called “Tokyo Rose” during WW 2, right?

      Nice to see you want to bend over the criminals already…”Nothing to do about it, right? Give it up, people, it’s all lost!”

      You yourself work for the DEA, right? or the FBI? or maybe you make your money informing on marijuana users?

      My question is, why do you not want the law to change?
      Why do you assert that the Republic itself will fall, before the marijuana law changes?

      And why do you insult and dis-courage your fellow citizens, if you are in sympathy with them?

      “Abandon all hope”, you say – now where else have I read that phrase, or something similar? Oh yeah – those are words said to be written above the gates of Hell itself, eh?

      I think you yourself don’t want the law to change, and are trying to discourage others from making the attempt.

      Portugal, meanwhile, yet survives….

      Oh that link is not for you, Kimmo, we know that you like things as they are now, and you claim to know things will never change regardless of the wishes of the population. You can go back to NOT trying to make the world a better place to live, by actively discouraging all discussions of legal reform.

      Abandon the field of battle, you say?…But that only makes sense, tactically or strategically, if you want that field to be in the undisputed and secure grip of the other player, eh?

      So your heart, Kimmo, is with the continued prohibition of marijuana: your “argument” ( actually, your un-evidenced assertion) implying that some dark secret elite simply won’t allow changes in the law, actually serves to permit those who wish to maintain the present laws to abandon any attempt and to remove any necessity for them to rationally defend this wasteful and foolish social and legal policy by argument; and would, instead of such rational justification, which all limits on liberty must have to be just, simply say: “We must accept tyranny and injustice, you fools! Face facts!”

      Bah! Just another nattering nabob of negativism!

      Other cops think differently:

      We will not abandon hope of a better society nor our attempts to gain such by peaceful discussion and rational debate, simply because YOU wish to abandon and dis-regard any need to advance rational arguments as to the justice and the utility of any continuation of this failed and unjust policy.

  11. As a former marijuana addict it frightens me to think of legalizati0n; I’m steady in my sobriety but all the same… That said, an Indiana University research journal, and I’m sorry I don’t have the citation, had an article where the researcher found that the brain produces its own substances that are also found in marijuana. These chemicals are used in brain function, perhaps as a neurotransmitter or adjunct to neurotransmitters. This was the first citation that led me to believe that there are uses for medical marijuana. I also agree with many posting here that the DEA is more damaging than helpful. If their money were used for mental health treatment and research into mental health it would be much more productive. Also, I work as chaplain in a mental health facility for the serious mentally ill. I have seen person after person find some level of recovery after using psychiatric drugs. It’s not a perfect solution but I’ve seen people go from too disturbing to be around to decent citizen, a pleasure to be with. At the same time I always boycott the lunch and learn sessions at work because they are always sponsored by Big Pharma and always include a “purchased” physician as presenter. As a chaplain I’ve also found spirituality and unending love to have excellent effect. Most of our people are victims of the foulest abuse human beings impose on one another and their illness is severe PTSD manifested as a disorder listed in the DSM.

    1. Legalization isn’t a practical option at this time, but decriminalization is. David, the problem is that the establishment’s response to this drug is seriously unbalanced. The damage that is done to people’s lives, through criminalization and support of drug cartels, far exceeds any damage done by or to pot smokers. Have a look at what the Lancet has to say.

      In 2007 the Department of Justice reported that there were 1,841,182 drug arrests in the United States; the report also stated that there were more drug abuse arrests than any other category of offenses. Marijuana arrests accounted for 47.4% of the drug abuse arrests. This allows us to estimate that about 872,720 persons were arrested for marijuana offenses. Eighty-nine percent of these arrests were for possession.

      Violent crime at home and abroad, broken lives, wasted money, ineffective strategies, and constant violations of our freedom to engage in behaviour that hurts no one but ourselves – if at all: madness.

      The link you are looking for about neurotransmitters is here:

      1. I agree. Full legalization (with taxation and regulation) would for one thing be a little impractical as I can grow dope in my backyard or in a closet and would rather do so given that I don’t really trust the government not to screw it up some how and I really don’t trust big corporations not to royally screw it up.

        However, de-criminalization has just the right mix of benefits for society. There would be less money wasted on enforcing, arresting, prosecuting, jailing and all the ancillary cost that comes with all of that, and then there is the other side that casual users who would otherwise be harassed and made to suffer for a mostly harmless pursuit would not be rotting in jail, wasting their time and effort to avoid the law, dealing with less than desirable elements of society, or being taken away from their family or the whole of society for something that is less harmful than alcohol.

        Again, DEA, govt. in general. THIS. IS. REALLY. F******. SIMPLE. The people want pot and even if it doesn’t have any medical uses (which it most certainly does) why should this be illegal when alcohol and tobacco are legal. It boggles the mind.

    2. David wrote, “As a former marijuana addict it frightens me to think of legalizati0n.” As a former pepperoni pizza and Mountain Dew addict, it frightens me to think that some people might think David’s “addiction” was anything more than a lack of self-control. Cannabis is not physically addictive. People can develop psychological dependence on anything.

    3. My desire to stay in the good graces of BoingBoing’s moderators is the only thing keeping me from posting an attack on your addiction claim. Instead, I will guffaw loudly while mocking you in the privacy of my home.

  12. Obama seemed to be a progressive minded fellow before he was elected. I think when the powers that really be sat him down for the “red button” talk, they explained how things really are going to work. Illegal pot must be a revenue for them.

  13. Iris’ have no medicial use, can we ban them too?

    I don’t smoke pot but if someone wants to be the occasional user that should be their choice and leave them the hell alone. Just keep it illegal to drive while smoking and such.

  14. for christ’s sake, there’s pictures of obama smoking a god damn joint!

    the hypocrisy is awe-inspiring

  15. @pmocek:if you understood addiction you would not dismiss my claim so lightly. Read some literature.

    Mantissa128: I’m right there with you. Decriminalization is the right move. There are costs associated with abuse of any substance: alcohol, food, assorted drugs, sex… but so far our unenlightened country is unable to see the social costs of keeping marijuana illegal. Many friends have enjoyed it and dropped it when they found other interests. I haven’t noticed any decline in world status involving Amsterdam, reefer heaven.

    1. David: Decriminalization is not the alternative to prohibition; legalization is. Decriminalization simply lowers the penalty and removes the right to a jury trial for the accused (think parking in a loading zone: not criminal, but not legal, and once accused, you’re considered guilty until proven innocent).

      Are you claiming that you developed a physical dependence on cannabis?

      1. Friend, I’m not sure I understand your take on this subject. For starters, if something is ‘de-criminalized’ it ceases to be a crime. And at worst, according to your argument, one would see the equivalent of a parking ticket instead of a jail sentence. This would make sense in the case that someone were to be smoking in public, much as I can be fined/ticketed in many places for smoking perfectly legal tobacco. That is just a ‘public health’ concern and not a criminal concern. Secondly, I can still fight a ticket/fine for such activity. And while I may not (citation needed, please) have access to a jury over the matter I can still defend myself from malicious prosecution or prosecution in general, especially when there is not a criminal basis or the fear of being jailed over something as mostly harmless as smoking pot or double parking. Truth be told, I’d rather pay a reasonable fine than go to jail (my community has recently conducted an experiment in this arena by offering the police the option of issuing a fine for possession under a certain amount instead of hooking up the doper and plopping them in jail for a fortnight. And it seems to be working out okay so far. Warning, anecdotal evidence, they seem to just give warnings now as opposed to write tickets and/or arrest small time possession offenders.)

        Also, consider that alcohol (as an example) is not ‘fully legal’ there are age restrictions, there are location restrictions, there are public use/intoxication restrictions, there are operative restrictions (transportation, DUI, manufacture, distribution, etc.) which make alcohol not ‘fully legal’ and in this sense ‘de-criminalized’ as opposed to ‘legal’. So what was your basis of argument again?

  16. @pmocek: check out this site about brain chemistry and then tell me if addiction is physical or psychological. Tobacco, heroin, meth, and cocaine have a devastating effect on neurotransmitters which gives a clear picture of chemical addiction, but brain chemistry is startlingly complex. Where is the dividing line between “chemical” addiction and “psychological” addiction.

    1. Your attempt to conflate marijuana withdrawal, a matter of a slight chemical imbalance, with the withdrawal undergone by heroin or alcohol addicts is insulting to everyone in this conversation.

    2. Chemical addiction is the only addiction: the rest are only “addictions” in an obsolete manner of using the word.

      No chemistry, no addiction: only compulsive behaviour, a lack of control, with respect to that behaviour.

      Even if something IS addictive, that is no good reason to our law its use and punish its addicts.

      The criminal law has NO role to play in health care, or in the prevention and treatment of addiction – which remains a health problem, that is to say, a medical problem, no matter how you look at it.

      Who ever actually thought that it did?

      The goal of these laws are not to treat addicts – it was and is to PUNISH them for being addicts.

      And that’s like punishing sick people, simply because they are sick. And that itself is sick! And it sucks. For everybody.

      Because that is not what a criminal justice system was ever meant to be about.

      These drug prohibition laws are early 20th century humanitarian laws, which have failed in their kindly and laudable aims, and which have instead now decayed into a species of State cruelty against the weak-willed, the young, and the sick. All of whom can now be called “criminal”, thanks to those kindly, humanitarian laws. ( I do not mean to be ironic, I really do think that in Canada back in the 1910s there WAS humanitarianism at the heart of these prohibitions, although wrapped in the anti-Chinese and anti-Mexican – in the USA, in the 1930s, anti-black – racism of that era.) For their own good, it was additionally said – but they don’t mention that so much anymore.

      Nevertheless, these drug laws are humanitarian in aim and intent, but imho they have failed in that purpose, and may indeed now be working so as to make our world a crueler, more violent place.

      1. Bah. In my third sentence, comment #40: “our law” should actually be “outlaw”.

        Also, whether or not marijuana is habit-forming says precisely nothing about its medical usefulness, or its lack thereof.

        That remains a question for doctors to answer; and not the police, the politicians or even the potheads.

  17. q[“Both the “left” and the “right” pretend they have the answer, but they are mere flippers on the same thalidomide baby, and the truth is that neither side has a clue.”

    – Jim Goad]q

    We need a new political party called “common sense”.

  18. @Anon: Yes, heroin and alcohol addicts experience excruciating physical withdrawal; those substances become part and parcel of cellular physiology and withdrawal involves lots of pain. but come to my mental health hospital and observe the suffering of our addicts, not all of whom use those substances. Observe mental illness and tell me it’s less painful than physical withdrawal. The power in your statement suggests that either you have undergone withdrawal or you have no concept whatever of addiction. In any case, this is a conversation, not an argument. If you’re a veteran my heart goes out to you. If you don’t understand addiction go read the literature. We are our brains. Recovery from addiction involves radical changes in our pleasure/pain centers. Every addict suffers, no matter if it’s opiates, meth, food, sex or any other addicting action or substance.

    1. SO you make no distinction between addictions of the mind are addictions of the body: so religion and political ideologies count as pathologies too – as people can have their minds addicted to either, or both.

      If not, why not?

      If legal penalties for the use of addictive substances are proper, why not then use legal sanctions for the following or promoting of addictive religious or ideological beliefs?

    2. “Addiction” is a term originally derived from Roman Law: and it means to be bound over to another.

      It is a term which is now used so broadly, as to have become devoid of any moral content (or even medical use – it seems that such a broad use of thew term simply displaces the word “compulsive”, and reduces the accuracy and use of the word “addiction”, which used to denote ONLY bio-chemical dependence upon some chemical agent, and was NOT used to refer to ALL repetitive compulsions), and the possibility of “addiction” arising with respect to any particular behaviour (Watching TV? Surfing the web? Sex?) is not sufficient to justify any legal controls and sanctions whatsoever on the materials or practices which are capable of “addicting” people – for instance, religion or coffee, amongst many other things.

  19. Wow, how did I disturb so many people? I did not advocate for legal penalties for drugs that are now illegal. Any of them could and should be made legal, but we need to consider the consequences. Tobacco and alcohol, tobacco being the worst, are examples of legal drugs that have significant consequences. Prohibition demonstrated the folly of banning substances so that isn’t a viable choice. Legalization, if we do any pre-thought about it, should count the social costs. Lung cancer for smoked materials? Significant medical costs related to withdrawal from opiates? (Would we even consider legalizing meth, which destroyed lives in the 60’s and has made an incredible comeback? By the way, here’s the link I couldn’t remember before. I used to think medical marijuana was a gimmick, but this article clearly demonstrates that the same compounds found in marijuana are produced and utilized in the brain. For me it suggests that pain relief is a significant use for medical marijuana.

    My opening statement in this thread was that I feared legalization; unless I was totally obtuse my statement referred to a personal fear. In other words, an opinion. I’m 59; I came through the Sixties, I enjoyed the Sixties. I listen to KPIG because the music brings back pleasant thoughts about the Sixties. I’m not sure what I’ve touched in this discussion but I assure you, if we were all in the same room we would enjoy one another’s company. My only contentious statement in this thread is this: the anger that has been shown comes either from unrecovered addicts or from those who have not been involved in addictions or recovery from addictions. I still recommend that people read the material at this link: And if you want some pleasant related reading on the brain I recommend “The Brains That Changes Itself”.

  20. I always wondered if scientist would have put as much effort into finding medical uses for marijuana to begin with if it was legal to begin with. Kind of a scientist way of playing activist against the laws placed against use and ownership of marijuana.

    This is more retorical. I’m not really interrested in reading someones 5 page response on how research started or w/e.

  21. Well, either it is a narcotic (a chemical agent that induces stupor, coma, or insensibility to pain) or it isn’t. No, wait, it is legally considered a narcotic, but medically considered not a narcotic?

    (It is considered a narcotic when there is profit for big business[prison industry], but not when there is no profit for big business[pharma industry – can’t patent an herb, or anything else naturally occurring] Ah, now I understand).

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