Is Marijuana Really As Addictive As Heroin?

Press Release March 18, 2002
Media Contact

Roberto Rionda at (212) 935-4500 or Jon Gettman at (540) 822-9002

Marijuana is considered equal to heroin – and worse than cocaine — in terms of abuse potential and lack of medicinal value, according to current federal law. It is a “Schedule I” drug, meaning it has a “high potential for abuse” and “no accepted medical use”. This classification is preventing many AIDS, cancer and other patients from legal access to marijuana as medicine.

On Tuesday March 19 this scheduling will be challenged in the D.C. Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals. The Court is being asked to order the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to consider additional research and testimony in their scientific and medical evaluation of marijuana. This challenge is being brought to the Court by Jon Gettman, Ph.D., and High Times magazine, who argue that marijuana does not have a “high potential for abuse” and does have accepted medical use for people with certain illnesses.

Specifically, Gettman and High Times are asking the Court to order DEA and HHS to hold public hearings to consider the testimony of patients, doctors, and state health officials from jurisdictions that have accepted medical marijuana use under state law.

According to petition researcher Gettman: “Eight states and the District of Columbia have recognized the medicinal value of marijuana and almost every state distinguishes marijuana from narcotics; but the federal government still classifies this drug as equal in danger to cocaine and heroin, thus prohibiting potential beneficiaries from access and obstructing its development. High Times and I are asking the court to put an end to this charade.”

Marijuana is presently a schedule I controlled substance. Under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) schedule I drugs and substances can only be used for research under the most restrictive and expensive conditions. Schedule I drugs must have a high potential for abuse relative to other drugs regulated by the CSA and must also lack accepted medical use in the United States. In this case the federal government argues that marijuana has a similar abuse potential to heroin and cocaine, lacks accepted medical use, and therefore must be maintained in Schedule I.

With the backing of High Times magazine, Gettman filed the original petition for this case in July, 1995. The DEA referred the petition to HHS for a formal scientific and medical evaluation in December, 1997. DEA formally rejected the petition in March, 2001; the current case subjects DEA’s decision to judicial review.

Jon Gettman and High Times are represented by the Law Offices of Michael Kennedy. More background information is available upon request.

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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