DEA Now to Consider Changing Cannabis to a Schedule 3 Drug
There have been some interesting new developments in the cannabis industry over the past month. On August 30, 2023, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) sent a groundbreaking recommendation to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) regarding the rescheduling of marijuana. In this pivot move, the HHS recommends to the DEA changing cannabis to a Schedule 3 drug.
With more U.S. states legalizing cannabis each year, many people feel like “it’s only a matter of time” before it goes federally legal. As a leading cannabis and hydroponics recruiting agency, M&F Talent pays close attention to the ongoing evolution of cannabis policy in the United States.
In this blog post, we will delve into the details of the historic recommendation by the HHS and what it could mean for the future of cannabis legalization.
The Current State of Cannabis in the United States
Cannabis has long been classified as a Schedule 1 drug by the DEA. According to the DEA Drug Fact Sheet, “Marijuana is a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act, meaning that it has a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision.”
Obviously, state governments and legislators from around the country do not agree with the DEA’s assessment of cannabis. In fact, millions of people report finding medical relief from cannabis or enjoy using it as a recreational substance. Nonetheless, due to federal law, cannabis laws are a patchwork of regulations in different state markets across the country.
The HHS Recommends Changing Cannabis to a Schedule 3 Drug
The HHS’s recommendation to the DEA in August 2023 represents a significant shift in the federal government’s stance on cannabis. According to the Bloomberg website, “Reclassification is a step short of legalizing the drug entirely, but it would mark a critical shift away from marijuana’s status as a Schedule I substance, which includes drugs with high risk of abuse, like heroin, LSD and ecstasy. Schedule III substances, such as ketamine, are seen as less dangerous and can be obtained legally with a prescription.”
The DEA defines Schedule III substances as “drugs with a moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence.”
While it remains unclear if the DEA will take the advice of the HHS, the recommendation is still making waves across the cannabis industry. This move has been met with anticipation and excitement by marijuana legalization advocates and business people alike.
Rescheduling vs. Legalization
It’s important to note that the HHS’s recommendation does not equate to the legalization of cannabis. While a Schedule III classification is certainly a step in the right direction, it does not mean we are all in on a full-scale federal cannabis market. However, if the DEA decides to move cannabis to Schedule II or III, it would likely create more opportunities for research & development and could pave the way for future federal legalization.
Potential Implications of Changing Cannabis to a Schedule 3 Drug
From business opportunities to new medical research, there are many implications for rescheduling cannabis to a Schedule III substance.
One of the most promising benefits of rescheduling cannabis to Schedule III is that it may open the doors for more extensive research into medical applications. Since cannabis is considered Schedule I, it has been very difficult to give the plant the attention it deserves when it comes to medical research. While millions of patients can attest to the benefits of medical cannabis, nothing would legitimize its medical applications like formal approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
New medical research would also likely lead to more business opportunities with the creation of the first-ever FDA-approved cannabis drugs.
Banking and Financial Services
Another significant implication of rescheduling cannabis would be improved access to banking and financial services for businesses in the industry. Since cannabis is federally illegal, most banks and major credit cards are hesitant to work with cannabis businesses for fear of legal consequences. As such, a majority of cannabis companies are forced to operate in a “cash only” model – a fact that is a large inconvenience for businesses and consumers alike.
Rescheduling could also pave the way for legal marijuana businesses to engage in interstate commerce. As of now, cannabis businesses must operate within state borders to avoid federal prosecution. This fact poses particular issues for multi-state operators (MSOs) having to deal with a patchwork of disparate laws in the different places they conduct business. Not only is it difficult to produce consistent products in such an environment, but keeping up with the compliance laws in so many different markets is a real challenge.
Criminal Justice Reform
Rescheduling marijuana could also have positive implications for criminal justice reform. Thousands of individuals are currently incarcerated for non-violent cannabis offenses. According to the ACLU website, “marijuana arrests now account for over half of all drug arrests in the United States. Of the 8.2 million marijuana arrests between 2001 and 2010, 88% were for simply having marijuana.” A shift in federal policy could lead to the reconsideration of these cases and potentially result in the release of individuals imprisoned for marijuana-related crimes.
The HHS’s recommendation about changing cannabis to a Schedule 3 drug represents a landmark moment in the evolving landscape of regulation in the United States. While the specific details of the recommendation and its implications are yet to be fully understood, it signals a willingness to reconsider the federal government’s stance on cannabis.
Public opinion on cannabis has shifted significantly over the past decade, with a majority of Americans now supporting its legalization. This shift in public sentiment has influenced policymakers and could play a crucial role in the ongoing push for reform. The journey of legalization is ongoing, and the HHS’s recommendation about changing cannabis to a Schedule 3 drug is just one step on the path toward a more rational and equitable approach to cannabis in the United States.
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