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Federal Cannabis Reform Inches Closer In The United States

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Historically, the United States has led the charge in prohibiting cannabis in all of its forms. Starting in the 1930s, the United States prohibited cannabis, even for medical purposes, and imposed its will on other countries until they did the same.

What resulted is various international agreements containing prohibition provisions, many of which are still in place to this day. Meanwhile, other countries such as Uruguay and Canada have not only legalized cannabis at the national level for medical use but also for recreational use.

In the United States cannabis remains illegal at the federal level, however, nearly half of the states in the U.S. have now passed adult-use measures, and nearly every state has legalized cannabis for medical use to some degree. Support for national reform is greater than ever in the U.S., leading many advocates to believe that federal reform will finally happen this year.

One factor that many advocates attached their policy hopes to was possible rescheduling by the DEA. Cannabis is currently classified as a Schedule I substance, which is defined as “drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”

Other substances on the federal Schedule I list in the United States include “heroin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), marijuana (cannabis), 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (ecstasy), methaqualone, and peyote.”

Obviously, cannabis should not be on the same list as those other substances. According to documents that recently surfaced, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is recommending that cannabis be re-scheduled to Schedule III and has conveyed that to the DEA. Per Marijuana Moment:

The head of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) says his agency has “communicated” the agency’s “position” on marijuana rescheduling to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and has continued to offer additional information to assist with the final determination.

HHS for the first time confirmed that it had recommended moving cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule III under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) on Friday, releasing a trove of documents it submitted to DEA last year amid a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit initiated by attorney Matt Zorn.

According to the DEA, “Schedule III drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with a moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence. Schedule III drugs abuse potential is less than Schedule I and Schedule II drugs but more than Schedule IV.”

“Some examples of Schedule III drugs are: products containing less than 90 milligrams of codeine per dosage unit (Tylenol with codeine), ketamine, anabolic steroids, testosterone.” the DEA states on its website.

For comparison purposes, the DEA currently lists “Xanax, Soma, Darvon, Darvocet, Valium, Ativan, Talwin, Ambien, Tramadol” as Schedule IV substances.

Many cannabis advocates had hoped that cannabis would be descheduled completely. Tobacco and alcohol are not part of the federal controlled substances scheduling lists, and both substances are responsible for considerably more health issues in the United States compared to cannabis.

It is unclear at this time whether the DEA will follow the recommendation from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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