The DEA Has Finally Admitted It's Wrong on One Key Issue

August 7th 2015

Kyle Jaeger

The Drug Enforcement Administration has stood by its opposition to marijuana for more than 40 years, since the Controlled Substance Act was first introduced by Richard Nixon, assigning the substance to the same scheduling category as crack, meth, and heroin. But on Wednesday, the agency's top executive, Acting Administrator Chuck Rosenberg, made a shocking and simultaneously obvious admission: pot is less dangerous than heroin.

Clarifying earlier statements, Rosenberg said that "heroin is clearly more dangerous than marijuana," the Huffington Post reported.

Though it is not a particularly bold assertion, it represents a paradigm shift in the agency's characterization of marijuana. Rosenberg's predecessor, Michele Leonhart, described pot as an "insidious" drug and said that comparisons between the substance and harder drugs such as heroin were "subjective." Leonhart left her post at the DEA in January amid allegations of scandal within the agency.

For advocates, users, and most health professionals, this comes as no surprise. Even the most critical studies on the effects of marijuana use recognize that the substance does not pose health risks that even remotely compare to those posed by heroin. The former has limited addictive properties and no known toxic dose; the latter is highly addictive and dangerous. In short, one is deadly and the other is not.

According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. is in the midst of a heroin crisis, with the rate of deaths due to overdose tripling between 2010 and 2013. More than 8,200 Americans died from heroin overdoses in 2013 alone. By contrast, nobody has died from smoking too much weed.

ATTN: has regularly reported on studies concerning the physical and mental effects of marijuana use, and as most people already know, there is no research or scientific evidence that supports claims of pot's comparability to heroin. A metaphor about apples and oranges would seem appropriate here. In fact, one study found that marijuana might even be an anti-drug of sorts, providing a more natural form of pain relief that prevents people from abusing harder drugs such as heroin.

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But Rosenberg didn't take his statement on the subject that far.

"If you want me to say that marijuana’s not dangerous, I’m not going to say that because I think it is," he told reporters on Tuesday. "Do I think it’s as dangerous as heroin? Probably not. I’m not an expert."

"Let me say it this way: I’d rather be in a car accident going 30 miles an hour than 60 miles an hour, but I’d prefer not to be in a car accident at all," he added.

He didn't say that the DEA would halt its marijuana enforcement efforts, but Rosenberg did suggest that the agency was not particularly interested in prosecuting people for pot—not anymore, that is. After all, the Obama administration recently made it illegal for the DEA to use federal funds to conduct marijuana-related raids in states where the substance is legal.