Marijuana Rescheduling: Benefits, Challenges, and What to Expect

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In late April 2024, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) made a huge announcement — the agency plans on rescheduling marijuana, changing the way that cannabis products are regulated throughout the country.

For over 50 years, marijuana has been classified as a Schedule I controlled substance at the federal level, putting it in the same legal category as some of the world’s most dangerous drugs. However, in recent years, there has been a push for marijuana reclassification, as many states have legalized it for medical use, and public perceptions have shifted.

The DEA’s marijuana rescheduling proposal isn’t final, but if it’s approved, this change could happen soon. Here’s everything to know about this potential marijuana reclassification and how it would affect access to cannabis products.

How are Drugs Classified?

Federally, controlled substances are separated into five classification categories, which are based on a substance’s potential for abuse. They also determine how a substance is managed and researched in a medical context.

What is a Schedule 1 Drug?

Federal drug classifications range from Schedule I to Schedule V. A Schedule I drug is a drug with the highest potential for abuse and is regarded as having no currently accepted medical use. Schedule I drugs are also deemed unsafe for use, even under medical supervision.

Currently, marijuana is classified as a Schedule I drug, putting it in the same category as drugs like heroin and ecstasy. However, the DEA is proposing reclassification, which would better reflect marijuana’s potential use as a medical treatment for many conditions.

What is a Schedule 3 Drug?

If cannabis rescheduling is approved, marijuana will become a Schedule III drug at the federal level. Schedule III classification implies that a substance has moderate potential for abuse or dependence.

However, Schedule III drugs are also recognized for having potential medical or therapeutic benefits. This classification would allow medical and pharmaceutical professionals to prescribe marijuana to patients in coordination with the DEA. It would also allow for medical research studies focusing on marijuana.

Understanding Cannabis Rescheduling

For many years, cannabis advocates have been pushing for the DEA to reclassify marijuana. Many states have legalized marijuana for both medical and recreational use, which directly contrasts the Schedule I classification at the federal level. Now that rescheduling is possible in the near future, there are questions about what this change would look like.

What Does Rescheduling Marijuana Mean?

Rescheduling marijuana would change it from a Schedule I drug to a Schedule III drug under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). This would change the way marijuana is treated at the federal level and acknowledge that marijuana has some potential medical benefits when used with supervision, with low potential for physical and psychological dependence.

If marijuana were reclassified as Schedule III, it would remain illegal at the federal level. However, doctors would be able to prescribe marijuana for certain conditions and conduct medical studies on it. Additionally, legal consequences for marijuana possession would be lessened.

This would not change the way that marijuana is handled in states where it is legal for recreational use. However, it’s possible that marijuana dispensaries in these states would have to register with the DEA like pharmacies do.

DEA Marijuana Rescheduling Process

The US Drug Enforcement Agency, or DEA, is the agency that manages all controlled substances in the country. This agency is responsible for proposing and implementing the rescheduling process.

If the current rescheduling proposal is approved, the DEA will likely release further details about how marijuana would be regulated. Marijuana growers and distributors will likely need to register with the DEA to move forward. The DEA may also provide further guidance for medical professionals and researchers about approved use cases for marijuana.

Key Milestones in the Rescheduling Debate

Since the CSA was passed in 1970, marijuana has maintained Schedule I status. However, public perceptions and scientific knowledge of marijuana have changed drastically in the years since.

Marijuana is currently (as of May 2024) legal for recreational use in 24 states, medical use in 13 other states, and decriminalized in two more states. Seven other states have also legalized hemp-derived CBD products, although marijuana is still illegal.

In 2022, the Biden Administration initially discussed rescheduling marijuana as a possibility. In May 2024, the Department of Justice and the DEA released an official rescheduling proposal.

Moving forward, the marijuana rescheduling timeline will take at least two months. The proposal will enter a 60-day review period and will need to go through the White House Office of Management and Budget. Marijuana rescheduling will also need to be reaffirmed with legislative approval from Congress.

Benefits of Cannabis Schedule 3 Classification

Rescheduling cannabis has many potential benefits for patients, researchers, and distributors. Here are some of the potential benefits of the DEA’s current marijuana rescheduling proposal.

Facilitates Medical Research

Right now, medical marijuana research is limited in some parts of the U.S. due to its Schedule I classification. Researchers often struggle to get approval and funding for studies. Even when studies are approved, many researchers don’t have access to the high-quality cannabis products they need for their studies.

If marijuana is reclassified, it would be much easier for researchers to conduct these studies safely. This could help medical professionals learn more about marijuana’s therapeutic potential and find new applications for it in a medical setting.

Studies have already found that CBD could be effective for managing seizures and that cannabis can be helpful for managing nausea and vomiting in cancer patients. Further research could uncover other potential applications of medical marijuana and learn how to use it safely.

Improves Patient Access

Right now, patients can only access medical marijuana if they live in a state where it is legal. If you live in one of the 11 states where cannabis is currently illegal, there is no safe way to access it, even for medical treatment.

If marijuana were reclassified, it would mean that patients in any state could access it for approved medical uses. At this time, it’s unclear exactly what this would look like, but it’s possible that pharmacies and hospitals could stock and dispense cannabis products in limited quantities.

This would give people struggling with chronic health conditions more options for treatment. It could also prevent patients from turning to more dangerous, unregulated drugs as a way to manage their pain.

Reduces Legal Penalties

Currently, possessing cannabis is a felony at the federal level. However, since many states have legalized or decriminalized marijuana possession, marijuana incarceration rates have steadily declined in recent years.

Reclassifying marijuana would further reduce these legal penalties, particularly for simple possession with no trafficking charges. While it would still be illegal to possess marijuana without a prescription in many states, this could help keep incarceration rates low.

Encourages Industry Growth

Marijuana growers and distributors face significant hurdles when launching their businesses due to its Schedule I status. Rescheduling marijuana will reduce or eliminate many of these challenges, allowing the industry to grow safely.

For example, this reclassification could make it easier for cannabis businesses to open bank accounts, get funding, and operate in multiple states. In the past, many lenders would not work with marijuana companies due to the plant’s Schedule I status, but this would no longer be a problem with reclassification.

Additionally, rescheduling would enable cannabis businesses to deduct business expenses from their taxes. Right now, Section 280E of the Internal Revenue Code prohibits these tax deductions for marijuana businesses, resulting in higher taxes.

As the industry grows, it will be easier for the government to regulate different types of medical marijuana and other cannabis products. This could help make medical marijuana products safer and more accessible for those who need them most.

Challenges in Rescheduling Marijuana

Some potential obstacles may arise during the marijuana rescheduling process. It’s possible that Congress will oppose the movement, and rescheduling marijuana could come with some administrative challenges for the DEA. Many states already have their own medical marijuana programs, and the DEA will need to coordinate with all of them.

What Does Rescheduling Cannabis Mean For You?

So, how will cannabis rescheduling potentially affect the average consumer? From streamlining regulatory processes to increasing capabilities for researching cannabis-related products and a shift in public perception, the impact of rescheduling marijuana will likely be felt far and wide among both distributors and consumers.

Impact on Consumers and Patients

For patients in states where marijuana is already legal for medical use, it will remain accessible with a medical card. However, it’s possible that marijuana could become more affordable and a wider range of products could become available, as it will be easier for cannabis brands to expand their business.

For patients in states where marijuana is currently illegal for medical use, it could become accessible as a treatment for certain conditions and research studies. However, marijuana would still require a prescription and would be highly regulated.

How to Stay Informed

So, will marijuana be rescheduled? It’s too early to say for sure, but right now, it looks likely. To stay informed, you can read communications from the Department of Justice and the DEA about the current proposal. If you’d like to support marijuana rescheduling, you can reach out to your congressional representatives and encourage them to support legislation that would confirm marijuana rescheduling.

Medical Marijuana Cards from Texas 420 Doctors

Regardless of whether marijuana is rescheduled, patients will still be able to use medical marijuana cards for qualified prescriptions. If you’re wondering how to get a medical marijuana card in Texas, Texas 420 Doctors can help.

You can connect with certified medical professionals to get or renew your medical card online with us. Book an appointment with our Texas medical marijuana doctors today to get started.

Contributed and published by: Texas 420 Doctors

Published Date: June 24, 2024

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