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The DEA is Rescheduling Cannabis to Schedule 3

What it Means for Cannabis, Us, and You

May 2, 2024
“We remain cautiously optimistic and hope that this initial step will lead to more comprehensive reforms in the future.” —Lynnette French, COO of Parallel

This week, the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) proposed rescheduling cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule III of the federal Controlled Substances Act. This seems huge – it is the largest shift in federal attitude towards cannabis in decades! It’s an encouraging development and a positive step forward. However, it’s complicated, and this is just the beginning of a long-awaited change.

Let’s look at the positive aspects of reclassification, what it won’t fix right away, and the long road ahead towards federal legalization.

What Are Drug Schedules?

There are five schedules of drugs set by the DEA that are based on potential for abuse and accepted medicinal use. Schedule I drugs like heroin, LSD, and ecstasy are considered to have an extremely high potential for abuse with no medical benefit. Schedule V drugs like cough syrup with codeine are considered medically beneficial and have a low potential for abuse, but still require regulation.

Schedule III drugs are considered to have “intermediate abuse potential” but likely some medicinal benefit. This would place cannabis in a category with ketamine, Tylenol with codeine, and anabolic steroids. Many feel this doesn’t go far enough, and some are pushing that cannabis, like alcohol and ibuprofen, should be removed from the drug schedules altogether. For now, let’s call this a big step in a good direction, with many steps to go.

Does This Legalize Cannabis?

“While we view this development as encouraging... rescheduling alone does not address the full spectrum of issues associated with cannabis prohibition, including criminal justice reform and furthering economic opportunity to those who have been previously harmed by the war on drugs.” —Lynnette French, COO of Parallel

Unfortunately, reclassifying cannabis to Schedule III will not mean it is federally legalized. Personal possession laws are still determined by the states, and it is still illegal to transport cannabis across state lines. Rescheduling alone would not change penalties for major federal cannabis cases.

COO of Parallel, Lynnette French, states that “while we view this development as encouraging... rescheduling alone does not address the full spectrum of issues associated with cannabis prohibition, including criminal justice reform and furthering economic opportunity to those who have been previously harmed by the war on drugs.”

What Are the Benefits of Schedule III Classification?

More and Better Research

The reason the DEA proposed rescheduling cannabis stems from a long line of work by pro-cannabis activists, years of compounding research showing its medicinal benefits, and huge growth in public support. Last year, President Biden asked the DEA to review their scheduling when he pardoned federal cannabis convictions.

Existing research indicates that cannabis may be beneficial in treating physical pain and inflammation, mood disorders like depression and anxiety, and dangerous diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s. But under Schedule I, cannabis has been extremely difficult to study at the scale it deserves. Schedule III will expand this research and open the door to more human trials. While Schedule III won’t remove all these obstacles, it does help this research advance far beyond its current limitations. We could have more definitive statements about the efficacy of cannabis and its terpenes in the coming years.

In turn, this could exponentially broaden access to medical cannabis to patients who need it.

Reducing Barriers in the Cannabis Industry

Complicated federal regulations have left the cannabis industry extremely limited in its payment options. Cannabis businesses are heavily restricted from traditional banking services, and the limited services they can use have high fees. The federal tax code also hits cannabis businesses with crippling taxes and prevents them from deducting many of their expenses that most businesses count on to operate. Schedule III would remove this tax restriction and opens the door to traditional banking options for the cannabis industry. Operating a cannabis business will become easier and less expensive.

Between better research and better business, Schedule III is a step towards bringing you easier access to more effective and varied products, and could even reduce costs over time.

What is the Timeline for Rescheduling and Legalization?

Now that the DEA has made the proposal, the White House Office of Management and Budget needs to review it. Then there will be a public comment period. An administrative judge also needs to review the proposal. All in all, this could take months and go on past the election. Former President Trump has not yet taken a public stance on rescheduling, so were he to win back the White House, it’s unclear if this process would be affected.

Thinking positively, it's a great year to breathe deep, find your center, and practice patience. But we’ll get there!

What Can I Do to Support the Cause?

Vote! An initiative that would legalize the recreational adult use of cannabis in the state of Florida will be on the ballot this November. A recent survey showed that 56% of registered voters, and 49% of Florida adults overall, support the cannabis legalization measure. That’s great, but Florida law requires 60% of the vote to pass a state constitutional amendment. There’s still work to be done. First things first: make sure you’re registered to vote.

As you know, Florida currently operates a medical cannabis program that hundreds of thousands of Floridians benefit from every day. Full legalization (sometimes known as Adult Use or Recreational Use) would give every adult resident access to safe, regulated cannabis products.

You hold the power to influence your local officials. We encourage you to reach out to them and voice your support for cannabis legalization. Contact Governor Ron DeSantis via his website, then reach out to Senator Rick Scott and Senator Marco Rubio via their websites or by calling their congressional offices directly at 202-224-3121.  

Overall? Cautious Optimism

Full decriminalization or legalization of cannabis is the ultimate goal. No one should be in prison for weed, and more patients need access to the potentially life changing benefits of medical cannabis. But as Lynnette French says, “We remain cautiously optimistic and hope that this initial step will lead to more comprehensive reforms in the future.” As the situation evolves, we will continue to keep you informed. One day soon, hopefully, we can share that everyone, no matter what state they live in, has access to safe, regulated, and legal cannabis products.

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