Photo by Ben Stevens

News | 05.01.2024

After 50 Years, DEA Reschedules Marijuana: A Milestone In Federal Cannabis Policy

After half a century, this marks a historic milestone.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has long held cannabis in its tight grip, designating it as a Schedule I substance alongside heroin and LSD since 1970.

But as of late, the winds of change are sweeping through the halls of federal drug policy.

In a historic move, the DEA has proposed shifting marijuana from its current Schedule I status to Schedule III under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). This seismic shift, confirmed by the Justice Department on Tuesday, marks a significant departure from decades of staunch prohibition.

While a reclassification falls short of federal legalization, it paves the way for pivotal changes.

Under Schedule III, cannabis retains its status as illegal, albeit with nuanced implications:

  • Cannabis would still be illegal but recognized for medical use, potentially allowing prescriptions by physicians.

  • Cannabis businesses could claim federal tax deductions, currently prohibited under IRS code 280E.

  • There would be greater research opportunities, fostering more extensive exploration and leniency.

  • It could prompt states to legalize cannabis, both medicinally and recreationally.

  • Federal enforcement policies might shift in favor of state-legal cannabis operations.

  • A reevaluation of cannabis’s abuse potential relative to other substances might occur.

This rescheduling reflects a growing acknowledgment of cannabis’s therapeutic potential and might spur further state-level legalization initiatives. Already, 24 states have legalized recreational cannabis, and an additional seven have decriminalized its use as of November 2023.

Extensive scientific research, including a year-long review by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), supports the potential reclassification.

This review involved surveying over 30,000 healthcare professionals across 43 U.S. jurisdictions, resulting in the recommendation for medical cannabis use in over 6 million patients with 15 different medical conditions.

As the rescheduling proposal awaits review by the White House Office of Management and Budget, the head of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) emphasizes the need for a swift decision, as there’s “no reason” for the delay.

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