Marijuana reform has been a popular issue in the last few years, as many have pushed to try and end prohibition across the country. 20 percent of the country has legalized recreational marijuana and 28 states have legalized medical marijuana. Now, several lawmakers have been working on bills that would legalize the plant on a federal level. The newest proposal comes from Florida congressmen, Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz and Democratic Rep. Darren Soto, who have introduced a bill that would reschedule marijuana to be a Schedule III drug as opposed to being a Schedule I drug.
Legitimizing Cannabusiness at a Federal Level
Schedule I is the strictest category for drugs. It is reserved for heroin, LSD and substances that are considered extremely high risk with no medicinal purposes. Schedule III drugs, however, include Tylenol with codeine, katamine and dronabinol. The Schedule I classification makes marijuana illegal on a federal level so that banks can’t serve marijuana businesses. All banks have to report to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), which is a federal organization. If the government chose to crack down on marijuana and a bank was found supporting a marijuana business, it would be considered laundering and they would face criminal charges. So as it stands, banks can’t offer loans or even allow a marijuana facility to open a bank account. It makes it very difficult and dangerous to operate a cash only.
The Tax Factor
Another factor is that, currently, marijuana businesses pay very high taxes. They pay taxes on gross revenue as opposed to net revenue. They also can’t claim any deduction due to nature of the business. Reclassifying marijuana to a Schedule III substance would eliminate these problems, allowing marijuana businesses to operate in a safer way with the possibility of expanding and hiring more people.
Lifting Marijuana Research Restrictions
A major advantage would be that researchers could conduct official studies on the plant without needing to obtain federal approval. This would greatly expand the amount of medical research that could be done on the plant to help people with terminal illnesses, cancer, Alzheimer’s, MS, epilepsy, autism and dozens of other debilitating conditions that marijuana is used to treat. As of last August, the DEA agreed to allow some medical research to begin to be conducted but there are still rigorous and lengthy processes to get through in order to gain approval, which has made it tough for some researchers.
The legislation would prove to be a step forward for marijuana reform, effectively ending prohibition but in a somewhat restricted way. Many across the country are wanting the plant descheduled entirely but this would still prove to be a step in the right direction. It comes at a time when Trump’s administration has conveyed that they may take a harsher stance against marijuana which makes it all the more important. Press Secretary Sean Spicer and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have both indicated that there could be a crackdown on the plant. This has spurred many states to create proposals that would protect their industry. Time will tell how the future of marijuana reform unfolds.