At last week's Senate hearing on cannabidiol (CBD), a nonpsychoactive component of marijuana that shows promise as a treatment for drug-resistant epilepsy, John Ingram, a child neurologist at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, testified that marijuana's status as a Schedule I drug, the most restrictive category of the Controlled Substances Act, is a significant barrier to CBD research. As a physician who is developing a study of CBD as a treatment for epilepsy, Ingram ought to know. But anti-pot activist Kevin Sabet, who opposes moving marijuana to a lower schedule, testified that such a change "is not going to make the difference for research." As Johnny Green notes on The Weed Blog, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) challenged Sabet on that point, and Sabet retreated (emphasis added):
Booker: What is the difference between Schedule I and Schedule II in your mind?
Sabet: Well, it's actually a very technical difference and a very minor difference, and it's not going to make the difference for research, and I'll tell you why. Because, first of all, Schedule II products—
Booker: I'm going to interrupt you. A lot to do, little time. Dr. Ingram just said it makes a big difference. His ability to access Schedule II drugs— Dr. Ingram, is that true? [There's a] difference between being able to access Schedule II drugs for research vs. Schedule I?
Ingram: Well, we already have Schedule II. We have it as part of our practice.
Booker: So with that, I've heard testimony from a doctor, a researcher, that says Schedule II is easier to access.
Sabet: Schedule II is absolutely easier to research, but the issue is [that] it doesn't solve the problem that you want of getting the drugs to folks now, and it does not allow you to prescribe it….
Booker: Clearly, Schedule II is easier to access. Clearly, you can do research on it….
Sabet: It's a small difference.
Booker: Why are you resisting that difference then?
Sabet: Because we should spend our time doing things that will help families now and help researchers now, which are the things that I mentioned [ending the government's marijuana monopoly, reducing or eliminating the DEA's registration requirements for researchers who handle CBD, and establishing research programs through which patients can obtain CBD before it is approved by the FDA]. It's a red herring by the legalization movement, who wrote the CARERS Act [Booker's bill, which among other things would reschedule marijuana to facilitate research].
Booker: Sir, excuse me. Clearly, it's optics that you're concerned with. Clearly, this makes a difference….The downside of this is not that families will be hurt. You're just saying that they won't be helped enough.
More on the practical implications of rescheduling marijuana here.
[Thanks to Marc Sandhaus for the tip.]