The Department of Justice on April 30, 2024, affirmed that the DEA has concurred with an HHS recommendation to move cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act. The agency must first accept public comments, during which time interested parties can formally request administrative hearings to further debate the issue. Only following public comments and a possible judicial review will the agency issue its final determination. Changes in marijuana’s federal status will then take effect 30 days following publication of the DEA’s final rule in the Federal Register. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) concurs with this recommendation.

This is the first time the agency has ever abandoned its lethality position toward cannabis and acknowledged that the substance possesses legitimate therapeutic utility. Schedule I substances are federally criminalized because they possess “no currently accepted medical use in the United States,” a “high potential for abuse” and “lack accepted safety under medical supervision.” Cannabis has remained classified as a Schedule I controlled substance since 1970. Many agree that cannabis is not equal to ketamine or heroin.

President Biden promised voters in 2020, if elected he would reschedule cannabis in the name of social justice. In 2022 he directed the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to carry out a review into marijuana scheduling and ultimately advise the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to move cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule III. Is this pandering for votes?


The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), a group that represents state lawmakers across the U.S is calling on Congress to move forward with plans to use the FAA measure as a vehicle for the Secure and Fair Enforcement Regulation (SAFER) Banking Act.

The NCSL believes the inability of legal state cannabis businesses to receive financial services from the federal banking system creates an unsafe position for these legal entities, as well as taxation and compliance problems for states that have exercised their authority to legalize cannabis.

Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT), the GOP sponsor of the cannabis banking bill, believes Congress is in “the best spot we’ve ever been in getting SAFE Banking across the finish line.” Bipartisan members have also been discussing the possibility of combining cryptocurrency regulation legislation with the marijuana banking bill as part of a potential add to the FAA reauthorization, which must pass by May 10.

In 2018, the FDA approved the prescription use of plant-derived CBD in the drug Epidiolex. The medicine is authorized for the treatment of pediatric epilepsy, and it is classified by the DEA as a Schedule V controlled substance – the lowest restriction classification available under federal law.

Who Benefits with Rescheduling

Researchers face onerous obstacles in conducting studies into cannabis due to its Schedule I status under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). The reform reduces the administrative burdens on researchers. Solving the banking issue benefits the commercial industry by allowing tax credits. NCSL will be able to impose and capture increases in tax revenue. The pharmaceutical industry will fast tract research like Epidiolex mentioned above. Cannabis stocks will soar.

However, a Schedule III reclassification will not legalize marijuana or make it more broadly available as far as federal law goes. Nor will the reclassification rectify the disjointed (pun intended) conflict between federal marijuana policy and the cannabis laws of the majority of US states.

Who Looses

Unknown, are the following fears. Will Schedule III require a prescription by qualified medical personnel (MD, OD, PA, APRN) reducing the access to the general public? What happens to home growers? Will it force medical users back underground into the illegal market? What is the effect on legal dispensaries in states where marijuana is legal. Lastly, the senior population will pay more.

In Conclusion

The signal is corporations, states, and the pharmaceutical industry make more money. The noise is banking will be easier and tax credits will increase. The rules and regulations of this rescheduling will create a Gordian Knot that our legislators have no idea how to cut.

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