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Learn | 01.22.2024

How The FDA’s Latest Review Could Transform Cannabis Legality

The winds of change are blowing through the realms of cannabis regulation in the United States.

In a recent twist, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has indicated a potential shift in federal stance on cannabis. 

Once confined to the shadows of Schedule I, cannabis may soon find a new home in Schedule III, opening new doors for medical research and changing the narrative from a misunderstood substance to a medically valuable one. 

Let’s dive into the implications of this FDA review and its potential impact on the future of cannabis in the United States.

Understanding The FDA’s Review

Recent developments suggest a potential reclassification of cannabis. The FDA’s findings, released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, propose rescheduling cannabis as a Schedule III substance, acknowledging its medical potential. 

Since the 1970s, cannabis has been classified under Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, designated for substances without medical value and high abuse risk. However, a significant shift is underway. The proposed move to Schedule III would align cannabis with substances like Tylenol with codeine and ketamine, recognized for lower abuse potential. 

The FDA’s comprehensive review highlights credible evidence supporting cannabis’s medical utility. In the U.S., it’s already used clinically for conditions like anorexia, chronic pain, and nausea.

Moving cannabis to Schedule III could have a multifaceted impact, easing research constraints, shifting public opinion, and altering the regulatory environment. This shift would facilitate more thorough studies on cannabis’ effects and risks. It would also help mitigate banking challenges for cannabis businesses and could lead to changes in IRS policies, potentially enabling tax deductions that were previously unavailable. 

The FDA identified three key criteria supporting cannabis’s move to Schedule III: 

  1. Lower abuse potential compared to Schedule I and II drugs. 
  2. Accepted medical use in the United States. 
  3. Low to moderate risk of physical dependence. 

Notably, cannabis withdrawal, primarily associated with long-term, heavy use, is less severe compared to other substances. This perspective is echoed by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which supports the rescheduling recommendation. 

This potential reclassification, awaiting approval from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), could significantly alter cannabis’s regulatory and legal status, reflecting its evolving role in healthcare and wellness.

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