Should Cannabis be de-scheduled or re-scheduled?

Cannabis should be removed completely from Schedules I-IV status of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). It could remain on Schedule V but removing it completely would make better sense in the long run.  The standards for the different Schedules of the CSA no longer apply to cannabis or its derivatives. Schedule I denotes that cannabis is a drug with no medical use and a high chance of addiction and/or abuse.1 There are numerous clinical and non-clinical studies since the CSA was established in 1970 that show clearly the medicinal value of cannabis. While cannabis use disorder does exist, there is little chance of overdosing or death with cannabis use. Therefore, it could be considered for Schedule V – as it does have some abuse potential.

The biggest issue to avoid is to reschedule cannabis into Schedule II. Not only does the schedule of cannabis need to change, but it must be downgraded to Schedule V or removed completely to avoid the administrative nightmare of bringing all current cannabis industry members allowed by states, such as growers, processors, dispensaries, into compliance with federal registration requirements (which are due in part to the US’s participation in international drug control treaties). As of now, only one grower/processor needs to register – the University of Mississippi and NIDA which is the sole source for federal research cannabis. If cannabis is moved to Schedule II, that means every single person and entity in the cannabis industry throughout all the states that have already legalized medical cannabis will have to be registered at the federal level.

While both Congress and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) have the ability to reschedule or de-schedule cannabis, I believe that Congress should do so in order to have the input from all the states via their senators and representatives. While the DEA specialized in drug enforcement, Congress has the unique ability to bring together many different states’ opinions and viewpoints. The rescheduling of cannabis should be done at the highest level of law making to ensure that the legislation encompasses all states rights.  Congress should be able to make the best decision based on the collective experience of states and their own medical cannabis programs.

References:

  1. The Controlled Substances Act. United States Drug Enforcement Administration. 1970.