Author: Autumn Lopez

Following the recommendation of the FDA and Department of Health and Human Services, a proposal was introduced last week to reclassify cannabis as a Schedule III controlled substance, a historic move from the Biden administration that could open new doors in the cannabis industry.

On Tuesday, April 20th, Attorney General Merrick Garland introduced a proposal to reschedule cannabis from its current classification as a Schedule I controlled substance to a Schedule III.

Is More Reform on the Horizon?

This recommendation follows President Joe Biden’s 2022 request to the Department of Health and Human Services to begin reviewing cannabis’s federal scheduling. This is part of the administration’s larger marijuana reform efforts, acknowledging the disproportionate harm its criminalization has had on communities of color and other marginalized groups. The administration’s plan involves a threefold approach, including issuing pardons for federal offenses of simple possession of marijuana, encouraging all governors to issue pardons at the state level, and recommending this reclassification.

Following this request, the Department of Health and Human Services and the FDA launched a thorough review of cannabis’s current classification, concluding that it meets the necessary criteria to be rescheduled, which are:

Less potential for abuse compared to others listed on Schedules I and II, is presently recognized for medical treatment in the US and poses a minimal to moderate risk of physical dependence among those who misuse it.

Despite this monumental push forward, this reclassification will likely take several months or longer to implement, as the proposal will first have to move through Congress’s rule-making process before taking effect. Nevertheless, this move will have far-reaching implications for consumers and state operators.

What Rescheduling Means

Under its current classification, federal policies have greatly restricted researchers’ ability to study cannabis, limiting scientific understanding of its potential applications. Rescheduling cannabis to a Schedule III controlled substance would facilitate more research opportunities while still maintaining some regulatory control over its distribution and use.

This rescheduling also has important implications for state operators. It could remove barriers in the tax code that prevent businesses from applying credits and deductions to income generated by cannabis sales.

Although largely symbolic, this rescheduling signals a broader acceptance of recreational and medicinal cannabis and sets a positive tone for future cannabis reform efforts.

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