OPED: Schedule III Is Progress, but Not the Right Answer for Marijuana

Strela Studio / shutterstock.com
Strela Studio / shutterstock.com

As it becomes evident to Democrats and Republicans that Joe Biden’s time as President is up come the 2024 elections, both sides are trying to shore up any edge they can. While the edge is not necessary for conservatives, it damn sure won’t help. Now the Democrats and the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have written to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to review the classification of marijuana.

First reported by Bloomberg, a person who had seen the letter from Adm. Rachel Levine, the assistant secretary for health at HHS, to DEA Administrator Anne Milgram claimed Levine wants marijuana rescheduled to a Schedule III controlled substance. As it sits now, it carries a Schedule I designation, placing it amongst heroin and LSD. Back in 2022, Biden asked HHS to look into rescheduling, and thus far nothing had been heard about the subject.

A DEA spokesman confirmed the letter and their receipt by statement to CNN. “We can confirm DEA received a letter from the Department of Health and Human Services providing its findings and recommendation on marijuana scheduling, pursuant to President Biden’s request for a review. As part of this process, HHS conducted a scientific and medical evaluation for consideration by DEA. DEA has the final authority to schedule or reschedule a drug under the Controlled Substances Act. DEA will now initiate its review.”

This reclassification could help dispensaries, employees, growers, and others associated with the industry. Opening the doors to research, better and more open banking, as well as cutting off a 40-year-old tax code. This code takes away the credits and deductions from income generated by sales of Schedule I and II substances.

It also opens conflicts between state and federal laws and regulations. With 38 states currently making medical marijuana legal and 23 going a step further and legalizing recreational cannabis, this kind of change without time for states to react could prove incredibly problematic. As much as officials have claimed that this would lead to little impact for those currently using marijuana in one form or another, the past has shown that this isn’t quite true.

No matter who wins in 2024, the real change America needs is clear. Descheduling marijuana as a whole is an appropriate response here. While it needs to be done as a process to keep things properly regulated, its time has long since come. The amount of money being left on the table is insane. The taxes, advertising, real estate for proper growth, and finance that this industry could produce for the American economy are astronomical.

With both Canada and Mexico having already legalized it, we can learn from their pitfalls. Additionally, with nearly half of US states already allowing recreational, the framework has been laid for it to happen. Looking at the fact that 38 states already have a medicinal program, it means growth and a steady supply are likely only a short distance away.

Taking the big step to deschedule marijuana from the controlled substances is not something many people who have been against it are willing to consider. Stuck in the days of Reefer Madness and the mudslinging of Harry Anslinger, these individuals buy into the same hype of 60 years ago. That hype quickly became racially motivated, and to get the American people to band together against marijuana, they resorted to racist tactics.

The fact of the matter is that keeping marijuana under any classification of a controlled substance is destroying all Americans. The dangers of getting marijuana on the black market are huge. Much like moonshine during prohibition, with black market marijuana, you cannot guarantee how safe it is or how it may have been treated with chemicals or terpene “boosters” to make it more potent.

Much like alcohol was tested and certified to contain what it was expected to have in it once prohibition ended, we can do the same with marijuana. Standardized testing and labs that are independent of grow facilities can protect consumers. Tourism to cannabis-friendly resorts and visiting a grow like you would a vineyard or a distillery needs to be a real thing nationwide, not just a new way to keep it from the hands of the common man.