For practically all of cannabis history in the USA and the world over, the plant has been deeply reviled by governments. No matter the useful benefits that cannabis can provide, governments all over the globe seem to hate it no matter what scientific journals say about its efficacy.
However, in the USA, at least, that situation is changing. Though it still has a long way to go, it would appear that the Drug Enforcement Administration, better known as the DEA, is starting to warm up to marijuana.
But why is the DEA changing its mind on this issue? Why does the DEA seem to be choosing cannabis over opioids and other drugs?
What Is the DEA’s Recent Ruling?
The DEA is infamous among drug users in the USA as being the foremost governmental institution responsible for all drug enforcement. It has become a bit of a bogeyman among the marijuana community, as there is always the fear of being arrested suddenly and without warning by the DEA.
While the DEA does typically find and prosecute people for marijuana infractions in places where it is illegal, there is one interesting caveat. The DEA also regulates the amount of cannabis that can be grown for the purposes of scientific research.
While cannabis is still federally illegal and criminalized, there are still plenty of experiments to be run all across the country. Universities, laboratories, and even government offices test cannabis regularly. These research projects require a steady supply of cannabis. To facilitate this, the DEA permits a certain amount of cannabis for legal growth. This means that it is possible to gauge a few things based on how much the DEA allows people to grow.
In 2019, the amount of cannabis the DEA requested rose to around 5400 pounds, which is over five times the amount they permitted in 2018. Furthermore, the DEA is also proposing allowing the production of chemically synthesized THC; over 380 kilograms of pure THC in synthetic form.
This vast increase in marijuana production means a few important things for the marijuana community.
What Does This Mean for Marijuana Growers?
The massive increase in allowed legal marijuana growing in the USA means a few critical things for those actively involved in the cannabis community. For starters, it could mean that the DEA is preparing to begin permitting more and more individual marijuana growers.
This might not seem like much to most people, but having a license to grow legal marijuana is very challenging to obtain. While you can easily grow it in a legal state, it is almost impossible to grow cannabis for the federal government on an official license. If the DEA is starting to request more and more legal cannabis stocks, then it could signal a willingness for more people to grow more marijuana individually.
The other thing it could be is that the federal reserves are getting too low, and they need replenishing. This also might seem rather boring, but it does actually mean something significant.
If federal marijuana reserves are getting low, it means that experimentation and research on cannabis have increased in the last year, so much so that the reserves have become depleted. While this might not be directly helpful for the legislative future of marijuana, it does mean that there is an increasing need to produce more federally legalized cannabis.
For marijuana growers, the DEA’s change in opinion either means a lot more original production and government permission, or it signals a profitable and hopeful future with legislation. No matter how you look at it, it is definitely a positive thing for the cannabis community.
However, the real question is why the DEA is actually doing this. Why is the DEA seemingly allowing an increase in cannabis production – are its views on drugs changing over time?
Why Is the DEA Doing This?
This change in permissible cannabis quantities can make it seem like the DEA is starting to loosen its harsh grip on the cannabis industry. Is it possible that the DEA is starting to chill out about cannabis? It wouldn’t be the first time.
During the Obama administration, the cannabis industry boomed thanks to the Cole Memorandum, a piece of semi-informal information from the government that informed all federal police not to prosecute cannabis crimes if they occurred in a legal state.
This small piece of states’ rights concession allowed investment within the cannabis sector to thrive, encouraging new and more exciting cannabis businesses to explode in popularity. They even began moving their control of the cannabis market and created the National Institute on Drug Abuse, so as to regulate the issuing of official licenses.
However, since Trump’s administration and the revocation of the Cole Memorandum, no applications have been considered for a while now.
Regardless of the precise reasoning or explanation for their actions, this increase in legal cannabis production says a few key things about the treatment of cannabis as a whole. For one thing, it means that the DEA is, effectively, choosing cannabis over opioids as the controlled, allowable drug.
But why is the DEA doing this? Why is cannabis preferred over opioids for research and testing purposes? Does this imply something about the future of drug legalization in the USA?
Why Is Cannabis Better for You Than Opioids?
The crux of this issue is that cannabis, as a whole, is remarkably better for you than opioids. This doesn’t just come down to the specific effects on your body, but also to your long term health.
There is also the issue of the endemic opioid crisis in the USA at the moment. There are so many illicit and sometimes dangerous opioid-based drugs out there on the streets that people are dying every day.
In 2016, over 42 thousand people died from opioid-related overdoses, and almost half of them involved synthetic opioids like fentanyl. Being able to lower that figure through prescribing cannabis would save countless lives.
But before we can do that, we need to make sure that cannabis is definitely a better alternative. So, in what way is cannabis generally better for you than opioids?
Cannabis versus Opioids: Addiction
For starters, cannabis is non-addictive. This means that, no matter how much marijuana or THC you imbibe, you won’t become addicted. You could certainly develop a psychological addiction, in the same manner that some people become addicted to video games or food as a coping mechanism. However, you won’t become physically addicted. This is because there is nothing inherently addictive within cannabis, making it the perfect drug to rely on for long-term treatments.
This might not seem that important for those looking to use it for only a limited time, but for those looking for more long-term treatment, it is incredibly significant.
One of the biggest reasons why opioids and many anti-anxiety drugs are so frightening is due to their risk of addiction. Months after finishing your course of drugs, you might find yourself still feeling that sense of addiction, requiring you to go out and get more.
In fact, according to a variety of studies, including this one by Theodore J. Cicero for the Journal of Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, up to 31% of all opioid addiction begins with a necessary opioid prescription from a doctor.
Meanwhile, there is cannabis, able to offer many of the potential health benefits that opioids can provide, without having to deal with the unpleasantness of addiction or the vast list of unwanted side effects.
So, what are these health benefits?
Cannabis versus Opioids: Health Benefits
Cannabis itself has several fundamentally valuable medical benefits for all manner of different medical conditions. This is in stark comparison to opioids, which seem to come with all kinds of different problems.
The reason why opioids get prescribed at all is to try and help make serious pain issues more survivable. Instead of having to sit there and suffer after a serious accident or surgery, you can take opioids to help mask the pain.
However, it isn’t just opioids that possess this ability. By far, the most critically studied and investigated quality of cannabis is its ability to help treat pain.
Innumerable studies, like this one by Hill et al. for the Journal of Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, have shown time and time again that cannabis is as effective, if not more effective, than other conventional drugs at treating pain.
By being able to accurately target the nervous system and facilitate the shutting down of the pain response, cannabis can help treat pain even more effectively than opioids.
If you don’t want to have to endure the hassle of having to smoke or eat your cannabis for its treatment, you can quickly consume some THC extract, making it just as easy as taking a pill.
So, Why Is the DEA Seemingly Choosing Cannabis Over Opioids?
The basic answer to the question of the DEA’s seemingly increased appreciation for the use of cannabis is that it works.
It works effectively, efficiently, and without any significant complications. Meanwhile, it is non-addictive and ensures that sufferers of pain and chronic illnesses can overcome their symptoms.
Though it might not seem like much just yet, the increasingly relaxed views on cannabis within the US government and the DEA will, over time, lead to a lot more marijuana being grown and sold.
Who knows? This announcement and change of policy might just help pave the way towards legalization in the future.