We remain mired in the because-we-say-so logic swamp of the federal government. the stranger

OH MY GOD, did you hear about Malia Obama? Turns out the 18-year-old first daughter attended a Lollapalooza show where she was photographed smoking what appears to be a marijuana cigarette! Also, ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ.

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To be fair, the story is not without its juicy elements. Apparently, young Ms. Obama skipped out on Hillary Clinton's history-making speech at the Democratic National Convention to attend the Chicago stop of the apparently-still-a-thing music festival, which is either a testament to the strength of the 1990s nostalgia boom, grade-A shade, or both. But it's hardly news. Obama is 18 and her alleged weed enjoyment went down in Illinois, which recently decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use. (And to all who'd gripe about lefty-Dem me going soft on a drug-using Obama, I hereby promise to be similarly blasé when video surfaces of Ivanka Trump snorting meth off Vladimir Putin's switchblade.)

Meanwhile, in actual cannabis news, last week brought some ostentatious inaction from the Drug Enforcement Administration, with the federal agency rejecting not one but two petitions—one from the governors of Rhode Island and Washington (Inslee represent!), another from a nurse in New Mexico—seeking to have marijuana reclassified from a highly restricted Schedule I drug to a less-restricted Schedule II drug.

This, dear readers, is but the latest skirmish in the ongoing battle over rescheduling, a boring-sounding maneuver that will literally change everything about American weed. Here's the deal: Since 1970, the Controlled Substances Act has listed cannabis as a Schedule I narcotic—a designation that places weed alongside heroin and LSD as a drug with a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use. Defending the DEA's insistence on keeping weed in Schedule I, DEA head Chuck Rosenberg wrote, "This decision isn't based on danger. This decision is based on whether marijuana, as determined by the FDA, is a safe and effective medicine, and it's not."

Perhaps you're wondering: How can a human intelligent enough to hold a top post in the government of the alleged greatest country on earth insist that cannabis has no medical benefit without bursting into mendacious flames? It all comes down to the phrase "as determined by the FDA," five words that have provided an impenetrable barrier to the wealth of evidence confirming cannabis's medical benefit, much of which comes from US states where cannabis is a legally prescribed treatment for dozens of ailments, and all of which must be ignored by the Food and Drug Administration.

You see, for the FDA to officially acknowledge weed's medical benefits, it must fixate solely on official government research conducted according to official government regulations, officially. This sounds simple, but thanks to weed's Schedule I designation, official government research is a prohibitively difficult task. For example, to study a less restricted Schedule II drug like cocaine or methamphetamine, researchers just acquire (or concoct) the substance and study it. But to study a highly restricted Schedule I drug like cannabis, researchers must jump through a slew of bureaucratic hoops, including applying for federally grown marijuana from the FDA (grown exclusively at the government-approved lab at the University of Mississippi and in demand to the point of scarcity), and gaining temporary authorization from the DEA to handle the dangerous Schedule I substance.

Some small progress was made on this front last week, when the DEA announced that the University of Mississippi would no longer be the government's only official weed dealer, with a handful of other universities being approved to grow official research-grade weed.

But the best way to jump-start official research is rescheduling. Simply moving cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule II would enable a new world of research that would steadily prove the vast medical potential of cannabis.

For now, we remain mired in the because-we-say-so logic swamp of the federal government, which insists it lacks evidence of weed's medical potential while making the gathering of such evidence all but impossible. Ray of hope: Hillary Clinton has promised to make rescheduling weed a priority of her presidency (God willing).

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Finally, did you hear about the fucking mayhem that went down last week at JFK airport? The story got buried under tragic Louisiana flooding and Trump shit, but apparently a bunch of soon-to-be-departing passengers were watching the Olympics on TV and, upon seeing Usain Bolt's mind-blowing 100-meter dash, burst into applause. Apparently this applause made a bunch of other people think they heard gunshots, instigating a stampede that knocked over a bunch of metal barriers that made still more people think they heard gunshots, touching off a chain of stampedes. There were no serious injuries, and no actual gunshots, and I would very much like to give everyone who was present at the scene a giant bong hit.

Got a weed question? E-mail schmader@thestranger.com.

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