The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is poised to potentially reschedule marijuana in response to a recommendation from federal health regulators. This possible change in federal drug policy has vast consequences not only for the booming cannabis industry but also for Americans in various sectors seeking federal positions and assistance.
A Historical Gesture
The DEA has historically deferred to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on matters of science and health. This precedent was reaffirmed in a report by the Congressional Research Service (CRS), where the DEA confirmed its stance. Further strengthening this, CRS reported they knew of no instance where the DEA had ignored an FDA recommendation about rescheduling.
Legal and Policy Implications
The recommendation from the HHS suggests a shift from the present Schedule 1 classification of cannabis (indicating no medical use and high potential for abuse) to Schedule 3. This reclassification entails reevaluating the drug’s legal status, which President Joe Biden has sought since the previous year.
Upon this reclassification, significant changes in federal law must be proposed by the DEA, with potential law alterations as early as next spring.
Benefits and Hurdles for the Cannabis Industry
The cannabis industry would greatly benefit from this rescheduling. Notably, the infamous Section 280E of the federal tax code, which hampers marijuana businesses from claiming standard tax deductions, would be eradicated. However, a stringent FDA approval process would be obligatory for Schedule 3 drugs, available only via a doctor’s prescription.
A Wider Perspective: Beyond Rescheduling
While the move to reschedule cannabis is undoubtedly a positive stride, it’s merely the tip of the iceberg for an industry in desperate need of comprehensive reform. Despite an overwhelming 89% of Americans supporting legal medical cannabis, as indicated in a Pew Research poll, the journey is far from over. Merely reclassifying cannabis isn’t sufficient for the industry’s needs, and several critical changes are necessary for the marijuana industry to progress substantially. Here are some of the most significant ones:
Relief from Section 280E: With the impending move to Schedule 3, the onerous 280E tax implications would cease. However, this does little to appease businesses already burdened by its effects. Consequently, retroactive relief is vital to help state-regulated small cannabis businesses grow.
Safeguards for state-regulated enterprises: Agencies like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Department of Justice need to affirm that state-regulated marijuana businesses won’t face federal penalties.
Full Descheduling and Holistic Reform: A complete overhaul, including the entire removal of cannabis from the scheduling system, is the ultimate goal. The industry and its advocates seek logical federal amendments that address current issues without unnecessary bureaucratic impediments.
As we stand on the precipice of potential monumental change, it’s crucial to not only celebrate the victories but also to press forward, urging for comprehensive reforms. The rescheduling of marijuana is a promising start, but the journey toward a more equitable and logical federal cannabis policy is far from its conclusion. For countless Americans and businesses facing taxing challenges, the call for action has never been louder, and the need for better marijuana reforms is as crucial as ever.