Educating a Congress person
By Carl Olsen
My Meeting with Congressman Young — 9/22/2015
I met with Congressman David Young (R. IA-3) on Tuesday, September 22, 2015, at 11:00 a.m. I gave him a series of documents and had a short discussion on each one. I asked him a few questions. One of the things that impressed me right away is that he remembered meeting me at a legislative forum with my state Senator Jack Whitver and my state Representative Kevin Koester back in January of 2015 shortly after he took office. He remembered what I was wearing that day. So, this shows the importance of attending local legislative forums. Knowing your state senator and state representative can be helpful when you are talking to your federal congress person.
The first document
The first document I gave him is the set of conditions for each of the five schedules in the Controlled Substances Act. I underlined the phrase “accepted medical use in treatment in the United States” in each of the five sections and I asked Congressman Young if there is any connection between this phrase and forty (40) state medical marijuana laws. He said he was unsure. So, this is critical. By saying he was unsure, he gave me the opportunity to explain it to him. I cannot stress how important this is as the initial step.
The second document
The second document I gave him is the administrative process for changing the schedules and some court cases that explain my interpretation. First I pointed out that pharmaceutical drugs going through the FDA pipeline are rescheduled at the request of the U.S. Attorney General and the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services. I pointed out that substances do not reschedule themselves. Someone starts the process. He mentioned Congress at that point, because Congress can change the schedules legislatively. But, that still leaves the question of “any interested party.” The administrative process also allows any interested party to initiate the process. So, by process of elimination, we know that substances that are rescheduled by Congress or at the request of an interested party are not going through the FDA pipeline for approval as medicine. Any process to reschedule as the result of going through the FDA pipeline will be initiated by the U.S. Attorney General and the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services. So, I asked him, “What happens when a state accepts the medical use of marijuana? Who initiates the process to have it removed from federal schedule 1?” Two state have initiated the process, but only as an afterthought years later and neither of them has rescheduled at the state level. The petition initiated by the states of Washington and Rhode Island was filed in November of 2011 and is still currently pending with the DEA. So, I made the argument that the states are neglegent for failure to intiate the federal rescheduling process. Who else is going to do it if not a state that has legalized the medical use of marijuana?
Then I told him there were federal court cases that say accepted medical use under federal scheduling can be accepted intrastate use of a controlled substance without any interstate marketing, proving that state laws are relevant to the phrase “accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.”
The third document
The third document I gave him is an amendment by Senator Whitver that he never actually filed. I asked Senator Whitver, who is my legislator in the Iowa Senate, to file an amendment to a medical marijuana bill, SF 484, telling the federal government that we are reclassifying marijuana as medicine under federal law by enacting a state law accepting the medical use of marijuana. Senator Whitver is a Republican and Congressman Young is a Republican. They know each other. I told him that this document proves how persuasive my argument is.
The fourth document
The fourth document I gave him is the enforcement sections in the three international treaties where there is an exception to the enforcement for constitutional due process. I asked him if the laws enacted in the states, including the ones that fully legalize marijuana for non-medical use, are constitutional. He said the federal government has never stepped in to interfere with the enactment or the implementation of those law. I reminded him that the the federal government actually did try to interfere in California but lost the case in federal court. He reminded me that it happened under the first Bush Administration. So, we both agreed that it looks like these laws are constitutional. If they are constitutional, then they are exempt from the three international drug treaties and there is no failure to comply with those treaties. The reason I brought this up is because there are some old court cases before states began accepting the medical use of marijuana that said the treaties do not allow marijuana to be placed in a schedule lower than 2. Those old court cases are no longer relevant since we are now talking about activity that is exempt from those treaties.
The fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth documents
The next series of documents I handed him are four bills pending in the U.S. House of Representatives, and he is a co-sponsor of one of them, H.R. 1635.
- H.R. 525: Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2015, Jan 26, 2015
- H.R. 1538: CARERS Act of 2015, Mar 23, 2015
- H.R. 1635: Charlotte’s Web Medical Access Act of 2015, Mar 25, 2015
- H.R. 1774: Compassionate Access Act, Apr 14, 2015
I said it was a shame that H.R. 1635 expires after 3 years and asked him how producers were going to get excited about investing in this process when it all just disappears after three years. I asked him how that will help the patients. He said it would most likely be renewed before it expires and this is just Congress’ way of dipping its toe in the water. I agreed it was better than nothing. He said he had not seen H.R. 525 and would probably have no problem co-sponsoring it. I said I would appreciate his support on any or all of these bills. I did point out that I like H.R. 1774 better than the others because it does not pre-determine the outcome after removing marijuana from schedule 1. I said I don’t like the part where it says the federal administrative agencies must pick one of the other schedules. I think all options should be left open, including removing marijuana from all of the schedules. Let’s have a fair process and let’s not pre-determine the outcome. We did agree this issue is building momentum from both a medical and non-medical perspective and is not going away.
The ninth, tenth, eleventh documents
We then had a discussion on whether marijuana has accepted medical use from a medical and pharmacological perspective. He said there were no studies showing accepted medical use of marijuana. I took the opportunity to point out that opium plants and coca plants have no accepted medical use in the sense that they are not FDA approved prescription products, and yet both of those plants are in schedule 2, not schedule 1. I said THC in a pill is in schedule 3, but the plant it comes from is in schedule 1. The drugs made from opium and coca plants are mostly in schedule 2. So, I told him the plant does not have to have any greater accepted medical value than opium or coca plants to invalidate its current schedule 1 status. I then handed him three more documents.
- The February 17, 2010, ruling from the Iowa Board of Pharmacy unanimously recommending that marijuana be placed in state schedule 2
- The December 17, 2014, recommendation from the American Academy of Neurology recommending that marijuana be reclassified to federal schedule 2
- The January 20, 2015, recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics recommending that marijuana be reclassified to federal schedule 2
Somewhere during our conversation, I summed up by saying that states were enacting laws allowing patients to grow marijuana at home because of the federal government’s absurd scheduling of the plant. What are the states supposed to do when the federal government says this is not legal and won’t cooperate? It would be like growing carrots. If you’re growing carrots to stay healthy, you just want some carrots in the garden. If you have a debilitating medical condition and you want a specialized carrot that targets that particular condition, you may want to get some help with the selection of the right carrots as well as the controlled environment for growing those carrots. Medicine and food are different in that way. If you eat right, maybe you can avoid the medicine. But when you need something stronger and you’re weaker, it should be there for you.
Carl Olsen is a web developer with a passion for cannabis law reform, based in Des Moines, Iowa.