John Sinclair launched a lawsuit to declassify cannabis as a Schedule 1 drug

Cannabis activist John Sinclair (left) and attorney Michael Komorn.
Cannabis activist John Sinclair (left) and attorney Michael Komorn. Larry Gabriel

You let folks smoke marijuana, and the next thing you know they'll want to declassify it and get the cops off their backs. That's what's happening with a lawsuit filed against the state of Michigan last week by longtime marijuana activist John Sinclair and others calling for the state to declassify marijuana as a Schedule 1 controlled substance.

Now that voters have legalized adult use of marijuana for recreational purposes, there is a whole bundle of legal contradictions that have to be solved. Law enforcement has consistently exploited some of those contradictions to continue its fight against marijuana. We're still struggling with the fact that we've had a medical marijuana law for a decade, yet still don't have a functioning distribution system.

The fact that marijuana is classified as a Schedule 1 drug with no medical use — while at the same time the state is running a medical marijuana program that recognizes a medical use for numerous conditions — is another glaring contradiction. And when law enforcement is faced with a contradiction when it comes to marijuana, it has a history of coming down hard against pot.

John Sinclair vs. the State of Michigan takes aim at cleaning up the leverage law enforcement agencies still use against marijuana. As attorney Tom Lavigne said at the press conference last Wednesday to announce the suit: "This should end the policing of marijuana. It should no longer be a law enforcement issue."

There was also some discussion of how marijuana was first classified as a Schedule 1 drug, as explained by John Ehrlichman, a former aide to President Richard Nixon. The Shafer Commission report to Nixon in 1972 found that marijuana shouldn't even be considered a drug and should be decriminalized.

Nixon rejected the report, according to a 1994 interview with Ehrlichman that was published in Harper's magazine in 2016. In it, Ehrlichman essentially admitted that the war on drugs was really just a war on black people and the radical left.

"The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people," he says. "You understand what I'm saying? We knew we couldn't make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did."

That is the science behind how the Drug Enforcement Agency made marijuana a Schedule 1 drug. It was to go after Nixon's political enemies. So why is it still a Schedule 1 drug?

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About The Author

Larry Gabriel

Larry Gabriel covers cannabis for Metro Times. He also writes the Detroit Watch in the monthly Michigan Cannabis Industries Report. Larry's chapter "Rebirth of Tribe" in the book Heaven Was Detroit, from jazz to hip-hop and beyond chronicles the involvement of Marcus Belgrave, Wendell Harrison, Harold McKinney,...
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