Summary: DEA Findings Disputed

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The discussion of the relevance of this new scientific knowledge to marijuana’s dependence liability will continue in section 7 below in relation to the psychic and physical dependence liability of marijuana.

These new findings by the scientific community, led by the research discoveries at the National Institute of Mental Health, contradict many of the “facts” upon which DEA has based prior consideration of marijuana’s scheduling.

In 1989 DEA states that the possible effects of chronic marijuana use:

“include: possible brain damage, sore throat, rhinitis, bronchitis and emphysema; suppression of luteinizing hormone secretion in women (which affects the production of progesterone); abnormalities in DNA synthesis, mitosis and growth; carcinogenicity; and genetic mutations.”(73)

However the concerns about brain damage no longer have validity with the scientific community, and concerns about cellular processes were largely based on the biochemical studies discussed above, now of questionable validity. The unfounded assertion that marijuana causes brain damage is repeated in 1992. (74)

The Administrator states in 1992 that:

“It is not possible to reproduce the drug in dosages which can be considered standardized by any currently accepted scientific criteria.”(75)

However, as demonstrated by the research of Tashkin, Perez-Reyes, and Azorlosa discussed in section 2 above, the National Institute on Drug Abuse provides marijuana in reproducible doses. According to the DEA’s own findings of fact:

“NIDA has shipped a total of 160,700 marijuana cigarettes for human studies from 1976 to 1988.”(76)

As noted above, DEA echoed the concerns of Billy Martin:

“The pharmacologic testing of cannabinoids in animals thus far has shown that while they do not appear to be highly toxic, they exert some alteration in almost every biological system that has been studied.”(77)

DEA was mistaken about the validity of that observation, and about the scientific value of Martin’s paper, as amply demonstrated by the criticism of methods of biochemical study by noted pharmacologists and researchers discussed above. As noted in a comment of Martin’s above, there is a natural process in the body for reacting to cannabinoid drugs, and the question now is to assess the effects of disrupting that process.

DEA also has expressed considerable concern over the effects of marijuana and cannabinoids on the immune system.

“Recent evidence also indicates that marijuana can depress an individual’s immune function. The immune system’s sensitivity to marijuana depends on the cannabinoid compound and varies among immune cell types. . .”(78)

Yet Lynn and Herkenham of the National Institute of Mental Health, far more qualified to draw conclusions from pharmacological literature than either this petitioner or the Administrator, expressly state their assessment that immunosuppression by marijuana is “subtle” and “insignificant.”

Contemporary research findings discussed above also suggest fundamental errors in DEA’s 1989 assessment of expected scientific findings. At this time, DEA believed that:

Chronic marijuana use may also have a toxic effect on the human brain. Preliminary studies indicate that THC changes the way sensory information gets into and is acted on by the hippocampus. Chronic exposure damages and destroys nerve cells and causes other changes which are identical to normal aging and may be additive to the aging process. Therefore, chronic marijuana use could result in serious or premature memory disorders. The results of these studies are now being confirmed.”(79)

Despite the use of the words “may”, “preliminary”, “may be”, and “could”, this statement is a “finding of fact.” Have the results of the studies alluded to by DEA in this finding been confirmed? No. These assertions, as many other DEA assertions, consist of hypotheses based on the cell membrane perturbation theory of action for marijuana’s effects.

DEA also continually challenges the relevance of research on marijuana’s constituent chemicals to an assessment of marijuana itself. For example:

“Although delta-9-THC is an active ingredient in the marijuana plant material, marijuana contains over 400 other chemicals. At least 61 of these chemicals are cannabinoids. All these chemicals could have some effect on the human body.”(80)

A discussion of this issue will continue in section 8 below addressing the issue of precursor chemicals.