Emerge’s Hot Take
On August 29, 2023, Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) recommended the rescheduling of cannabis from its current Schedule I classification to Schedule III. To date, cannabis has been (mis)classified as a Schedule I substance, categorized as having “no currently accepted medical use in the United States, a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision, and a high potential for abuse.” This classification hindered research, limited access and harmed hundreds of thousands, particularly communities of color through the war on drugs. HHS’ surprising recommendation demonstrates a shift in perception and recognition that the status quo is failing.
Under Schedule III, cannabis would be classified alongside other prescription drugs, such as ketamine and steroids. A reclassification would acknowledge that cannabis has potential for medical uses and has a lower risk of abuse than other drugs listed in Schedule I and II. This opens the door for further research in cannabis medicinal properties and paves the way for future evidence-based policy.
Most importantly, as a Schedule III substance, cannabis would no longer be subject to Internal Code Section 280E, the tax code provision that punishes the cannabis business.
Although rescheduling of cannabis would be a positive step forward, it would not completely alleviate the conflict between state and federal law. All cultivators, manufacturers, and distributors would continue to be regulated by state and local authorities.
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