The cannabis movement has grown geometrically in the past few years. Individuals and groups everywhere are chipping away at the crumbling remains of the Drug War and Prohibition. We are moving closer to a world of compassion, support, and treatment rather than criminalization, stigmatization, and punishment. For all the recent progress on the cannabis front, though, we are still inching along. Why not take a leap?

So much recent progress has been made on cannabis regulation reform that, to some, it might look like things are finally OK. This is, sadly, still far from true. But, great strides have nonetheless been taken, both domestically and abroad.

Strides amid resistance

We now have enough actual data from our first experiments with legal cannabis markets in Colorado and Washington to know for a fact that cannabis can be regulated safely and successfully. Legislators and activists all over the U.S. are pushing the next steps in sensible legislature. Despite popular support, however, there has still been considerable resistance from the old guard.

Countries like Portugal and Uruguay are starting to reap the rewards of better regulated markets as well. International unions like the EU and UN are all talking about the benefits of harm reduction and regulation. Here again, of course, we often see much more talk than action.

Tragically, many steps in the progression toward a global cannabis free market are stuck at a bottleneck. The most backward, deviant side effect of the DEA’s Schedule I narcotic status of cannabis is the ban on research. Without the ability to research and provide more reliable data, legislative change can always be put off “until we know more”—which will be never with the research ban in place. And, outside the U.S., not many countries even have the capacity to perform the quality of research required to justify new policy here at home.

So why not allow clinical studies? It makes no sense to ban safe, controlled exploration and expansion of knowledge on anything, let alone a non-toxic plant that has been used medicinally and culturally for thousands of years. Israel has been leading the charge on serious cannabis research, but its shoulders have got to be a little sore by now.

Don’t fear the reefer


The ban on cannabis research is only good for industries that profit from a lack of public information. Pharmaceuticals, plastics, oil, and many other industries stand to suffer if cannabis is ever revealed to the public as the viable, sustainable alternative it is. Unfortunately, they all have their own lobbyists, so new legislation can easily be kept off the table.

But there’s hope. The DEA is planning to consider rescheduling cannabis later this year. They are really only discussing whether cannabis is appropriately scheduled because they have to, but this is still an opportunity for all to voice any support for change.

Let’s open the doors to research and knowledge. What else can cannabis do that we don’t know about yet? How can we make medical cannabis even safer and more effective? What new products can be made with hemp? There’s a bumper crop of unanswered questions swirling around cannabis. It’s way past time to get down to answering them.

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Born in Arizona and raised in Maryland and Guinea, West Africa, Zach Brown claims the D.C. metro area as his home turf. He is currently back in Africa writing, teaching English as a second language, and making music in Bamako, Mali. Zach is an Eagle Scout who earned a B.A. in English from the University of Maryland. He was also president of the UMD chapters of NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) and SSDP (Students for Sensible Drug Policy).