Imagine a rock concert that filled a stadium with 50,000 people who are all smoking cannabis. What if, by the government’s and grower’s own admission, smoking the plant would cause 100 of the concertgoers to have suicidal thoughts, some of which would act on them. Furthermore, any concertgoers that continued to smoke cannabis will develop a physical dependence in as little as a month, and once this happens, individuals who abruptly stop smoking can experience seizures so violent that they can kill them. Now imagine the public and government uproar over legalization efforts if cannabis really did involve these types of risk factors.
Well, a prescribed drug does exist with these risk factors, and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) estimates that five percent of U.S. adults fill at least one prescription for this drug each year. The substance is benzodiazepine, and it is the active ingredient in name brand drugs like Valium, Klonopin and Xanax. The drug, which can cause fatal grand mal seizures in users who do not gradually reduce dosage, causes suicidal thoughts and intentions in one of out of 500 users. And benzodiazepines are Schedule IV, one of the most lenient classifications allowing for widespread distribution. The Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) argued in 2011 that Klonopin in particular might be “America’s most dangerous pill,” but the federal government made cannabis the fully restricted Schedule I substance.