A substance that has been shown to be safer than alcohol or tobacco and with greater medicinal value than either should not be as strictly controlled as heroin. Most of America agrees. In response, the federal government should do with marijuana what it has already done quite effectively with alcohol and tobacco: fund increased research on its health effects, stipulate regulations on safety, institute age restrictions on purchase and ensure mechanisms are in place to hold vendors accountable to a standardized set of rules across state lines.
As it currently stands, despite its legalization in 11 states and Washington, D.C., marijuana’s Schedule 1 classification means that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has no oversight authority on its use. It cannot evaluate something our government considers illegal, even if a growing number of states disagree and come up with their own set of nonstandardized regulations. Legalization would make us safer, as the FDA would be freed to do the job it should have been allowed to do all along: evaluate marijuana and vaping products for health and safety impacts. Former FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb has repeatedly said as much since stepping down earlier this year.
Other federal agencies, like the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), exist to ensure compliance with a host of laws regulating advertising, product safety and voluntary recall of alcohol and tobacco products. Placing marijuana under their jurisdiction would establish further safeguards on how these potentially damaging substances can be used (for example, among states that have legalized cannabis, it is harder for teens to obtain marijuana as drug dealers are replaced by stores that require proof of age).