The Controlled Substances Act (CSA) is a federal statute in the United States which defines the regulation standard for various substances, which are mostly drugs with psychoactive effects. Within the list, substances are ranked from 1 (hardest regulation) to 5 (softest regulation). It is maintained by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Marijuana’s position as a controlled substance has always been controversial
The CSA comes up frequently in debates over legalizing or regulating marijuana or hemp derivatives. The logic behind the Schedule of Controlled Substances is that drugs in rank 1 are the most dangerous, most prone to abuse, and hence the most tightly regulated and most likely to get you arrested if you’re caught riding dirty. Drugs further down the list are considered less dangerous, safe to prescribe for medical reasons, lightly controlled as over-the-counter meds, etc.
Marijuana is classified on schedule 1.
This puts marijuana in the same class with heroine, PCP, MDMA, and the hardest drugs. Incredibly, both cocaine and methamphetamine (“crystal meth”) are on schedule 2, despite the extreme reputation they have as hard drugs with widespread abuse and deaths from overdose on the record.
For the record, both the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) concur that there have been zero confirmed cases of an adult death from marijuana alone. Occasional urban legends have sprung up claiming marijuana overdose deaths, but in every case so far death has been attributed to other factors, and not marijuana intoxication alone. Leaving aside other safety and health concerns, marijuana intoxication has not been found to be deadly in over 5000 years of use.
One might ask then “Why is it illegal?” This humorous, but factual, video explains the hidden motivation in US cannabis policy:
Recent legalization at the state level highlights the need for federal rescheduling
There have been many arguments and attempts to pass legislation in favor of reducing marijuana’s scheduling on the CSA. The future of cannabis in the United States is moving towards being more permissive as numerous decriminalization and legalization measures are passed.