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.

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.

Sum­ming up

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.