EDITORIAL: Marijuana should be removed from Schedule I list

With February's Nevada caucuses fast approaching, the Review-Journal is publishing a 10-editorial series on policies and government reforms all candidates should be able to get behind. The fifth policy goal we'd like all presidential candidates to champion: removing marijuana from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act.

Marijuana laws are among the most perplexing laws in the nation. While federal law bans any and all uses of the drug, many states allow the possession, production and use of marijuana for medical purposes. Meanwhile, since the federal government argues that federal law trumps state law, the federal government can, in theory, prohibit the use of marijuana anywhere it wants to, and the states can't do anything about it.

The federal government doesn't stop marijuana sales or purchases when they don't violate state law, but the legal lines are blurred when the drug is bought and sold across legalized and non-legalized state lines. In these cases, the federal government essentially chooses not to enforce its own laws.

As you can imagine, the current contradicting treatment of marijuana trade and usage has created a frustrating, unsettled situation for marijuana users and producers, as well as members of law enforcement and lawmakers. Either the federal government goes full force and bans it outright, or it ends all bans on the drug. Both are neither particularly realistic options, however, as politics would block the ending of marijuana prohibition, while banning the drug nationwide would do nothing but create more black markets and the violence that goes along with them.

Rather, in a nation where increasing numbers of Americans favor marijuana legalization, removing the drug from Schedule 1 makes the most sense.

Back in March, Sens. Rand Paul, Cory Booker and Kirsten Gillibrand introduced a Senate bill that would require the Drug Enforcement Administration to reschedule marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule II under the Controlled Substances Act.

The DEA currently defines Schedule I drugs as substances "with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse." They are "the most dangerous drugs of all the drug schedules with potentially severe psychological or physical dependence." These drugs include heroin, LSD, ecstasy and marijuana. Since marijuana is now widely used for medicinal purposes, it makes more sense to classify the drug under Schedule II, which as the DEA says, is comprised of drugs that have "less abuse potential than Schedule I drugs," but "are also considered dangerous." These include drugs such as methamphetamine, Oxycontin, and Adderall.

Beyond getting the Department of Justice out of the growing legal marijuana industry, reclassifying marijuana will keep more nonviolent offenders out of jail and prison, as well as generate more tax revenue for states and local governments.

It's an important — and long overdue — start to changing the costly trajectory of the failed war on drugs.