Specifically, the federal Department of Health and Human Services proposed removing marijuana from a class of drugs considered to have “currently no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” The agency proposed moving cannabis from the “Schedule I” group to the less strictly regulated “Schedule III.”
So what does this mean and what are the implications? Read on.
What exactly has changed?
Technically, nothing yet. Any decision on reclassification (or “rescheduling,” in the administration’s terminology) rests with the Drug Enforcement Administration, which said it would take care of the issue. The review process was lengthy and involved public comment.
Still, the HHS proposal is “paradigm-shifting and very exciting,” said Vince Sliwoski, a cannabis and psychedelic attorney in Portland, Ore. He runs a well-known legal blog on these topics.
“I can’t stress enough how big news this is,” he said.
after it comes President Joe Biden asks HHS and the attorney general who oversees the DEA reviewed how marijuana is classified last year. Schedule One equates it legally with heroin, LSD, sleeping pills, and ecstasy, among others.
White House press secretary Karin Jean-Pierre said Thursday that Democrat Joe Biden supports legalizing medical marijuana “when consistent with medical and scientific evidence.” “That’s why it’s important to have this independent review.”
So, if marijuana is reclassified, will recreational marijuana be legalized across the country?
Won’t. Schedule III drugs—including ketamine, anabolic steroids, and some acetaminophen-codeine combinations—remain controlled substances.
They are subject to various rules that allow certain medical uses and carry federal criminal prosecution of anyone who trafficks the drug without a license. (Even under marijuana’s current Schedule I status, federal prosecutions for marijuana possession are rare: There were 145 federal convictions for the crime in fiscal year 2021, and as of 2022, no defendants have been jailed for it.)
Medical marijuana programs currently licensed in 38 states (not to mention legal recreational marijuana markets in 23 states) are unlikely to meet the manufacturing, recordkeeping, prescribing and other requirements of a Class III drug.
But the rearrangement itself would have some impact, notably on research and cannabis sales taxes.
What does this mean for research?
Because cannabis is listed on Schedule I, it is difficult to conduct authorized clinical studies involving the use of the drug. This creates a sort of “catch-22”: more research is needed, but doing so has hit a roadblock. (Scientists sometimes rely on people’s own reports of marijuana use.)
Schedule III drugs are easier to research.
Meanwhile, a 2022 federal law aims to simplify cannabis research.
What about taxes (and banking)?
Under federal tax law, businesses involved in “trafficking” marijuana or any other Schedule I or II drug cannot deduct rent, wages, or various other expenses that businesses can write off. (Yes, at least some marijuana businesses, especially state-licensed ones, do pay taxes to the federal government despite the federal ban on marijuana.) Industry groups say the tax rates are often as high as 70% or more.
The deduction rules don’t apply to Schedule III drugs, so the proposed changes would slash taxes for cannabis companies.
They say it will treat them like any other industry and help them compete against illegal rivals that have frustrated licensees and officials. New York and other places.
“You’re going to make these state legal programs stronger,” said Adam Goers, an executive at Columbia Care, a medical and recreational marijuana giant. He is co-chair of a coalition of businesses and other players that is pushing for the rescheduling.
Another issue that the rescheduling doesn’t directly affect marijuana businesses: Difficulty getting access to banks, especially loans, because federal regulators are wary of the drug’s legal status.The industry has been looking for a The measure known as the Safe Banking Act. The bill has repeatedly passed the House of Representatives but has stalled in the Senate.
Have a critique? what did they say?
In fact, including Smart Approaches to Marijuana, the national anti-marijuana legalization organization. President Kevin Sabet, a former Obama administration drug policy official, said the HHS recommendations were “blatantly unscientific and politically charged” and lamented an industry “desperately seeking legitimacy.”
Some legalization advocates say the rescheduling of marijuana is too gradual. They want to focus on removing it entirely from the list of controlled substances, which doesn’t include things like alcohol or tobacco (they’re regulated, but that’s not the same).
Simply reclassifying marijuana would “perpetuate the existing divide” between state and federal marijuana policy, said Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. Carrico Castile, president of the Minority Cannabis Business Association, said the rescheduling is just a “rename of the ban,” not a call to arms for state license holders and an end to decades of disproportionately attracting people of color kind of arrest.
“Schedule III would put it in this precarious, chaotic middle ground where people wouldn’t understand the danger that it would remain federally illegal,” he said.