The issue of marijuana scheduling has been a big one for some time now. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has the federally appointed job of deciding what classification a drug falls under. A Schedule I classification is reserved for the most dangerous, high risk drugs that have no medical benefit, like heroin and cocaine. These drugs are illegal on a federal level and research on the drugs is greatly restricted. With 25 states legalizing medical marijuana and so many states legalizing recreational marijuana now, it’s no surprise that a great deal of pressure has been placed on the DEA to reschedule marijuana to a medical classification or deschedule it like cigarettes and alcohol.
The Long Hard Road to a Decision
After receiving letters from numerous senators, including Elizabeth Warren, asking the DEA to reconsider the classification, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration finally responded. They replied with a letter, sent to lawmakers in April, stating that they would consider marijuana rescheduling and have a decision made by mid-year. Great anticipation has surrounded their decision and as July 1st came and went, the pressure has intensified. Finally, Russ Baer, a spokesman for the DEA has disclosed that the administration is in the “final stages” of the process but they still don’t have a decision or any kind of time frame for when they will have a decision. Baer told The Cannabist, “I can’t give you a time frame as to when we may announce a decision. We’re closer than we were a month ago. It’s a very deliberate process.”
Agencies Involved in the Potential Marijuana Rescheduling
The DEA has been going through a rigorous 8-factor analysis as required of them by the Controlled Substances Act. They have been consulting with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), who have been contributing their recommendations. They have also been studying scientific evaluations made by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) submitted to them in April this year. There has been no public indication of what the FDA and HHS recommendations are. Baer has stated though that once the DEA has made its decision, all deliberations will be published in the federal registry for anyone to see, as will all other agency’s deliberations, including the FDA and HSS.
How a Rescheduling Would Impact the Current Industry
Marijuana rescheduling to a Schedule II classification would mean that marijuana would become immediately legal for medicinal purposes regardless of state laws. It would place marijuana in the same category as prescription drugs and open the cannabis industry up to pharmaceutical companies. The current marijuana industry would have to operate under new, tighter regulations that may also become a block in the industry. Medical marijuana research would become legalized though, and this would create an incredibly beneficial impact on how marijuana and its various strains are used.
If Marijuana Were Descheduled
Descheduling marijuana would also make it immediately legal across the country for recreational purposes. The current industry would most likely have to follow the same regulations designed by the alcohol industry, which would also mean a change for some companies. As it stands, it’s very difficult for cannabis companies to operate with tight regulations. Having restricted access to banking due to it still being federally illegal also makes it a cash industry that is vulnerable to robbery.
Marijuana advocates and the cannabis industry have been on pins and needles waiting for a decision to come down from the DEA. It looks like everyone will be waiting a little while longer.