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History: DEA agrees to move marijuana to Schedule III



The federal war on marijuana has entered the end game.

today, the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) officially moved to re-categorize marijauna as having medical use and a low potential for abuse.

For the first time since 1971, the US federal government is seeking to end cannabis’s designation as a “Schedule I” controlled substance—equivalent to drugs like heroin and PCP. Instead, the US intends to consider marijuana a Schedule III substance—on the same level as codeine.

The Associated Press appears to be the first to report the news, with it being picked up by Marijuana Moment.

Legalization polls in the 70s, and medical legalization polls in the 90s. Cannabis champion and congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) stated in an email:

“If today’s reporting proves true, we will be one step closer to ending the failed war on drugs. Marijuana was scheduled more than 50 years ago based on stigma, not science. The American people have made clear in state after state that cannabis legalization is inevitable. The Biden-Harris Administration is listening.” 

The rescheduling follows a request that President Biden made to US Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra in October 2022 to review the scheduling of marijuana under federal law. (Biden had simultaneously issued pardons for federal prisoners convicted on marijuana charges.)

In January, activists learned the US Dept. of Health and Human Services had recommended to the DEA that marijuana move to Schedule III.

The re-scheduling move carries immense consequences, from research opportunities to tax code reform for cannabis businesses. Yet it’s far from a silver bullet: On its own, rescheduling does not decriminalize or legalize cannabis; nor does it facilitate interstate commerce for the industry.

Read on to learn more about the significance of cannabis rescheduling, what it accomplishes, and what it leaves unsolved.


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What was so bad about Schedule 1?

Marijuana’s Schedule I has proved catastrophic over the decades. In 1971, with a hefty push from the hardcore prohibitionist President Richard Nixon, the DEA added cannabis to the nascent list of Schedule 1 Controlled Substances. Authorities deemed it to have no medical value, and high potential for abuse. Schedule 1 drugs include heroin, cocaine, and quaaludes.

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Police arrested millions of Americans for marijuana since 1971. Drug arrests became the No. 1 type of arrest police made, and pot became the No. 1 type of drug arrest. You could lose your children, housing, education, job, and more under the Schedule I designation.

Also, scientists could not study cannabis easily. Furthermore, a drug’s Schedule 1 status prevents its legalization; even today, states that allow for recreational or medical marijuana sales are technically in violation of federal law.

The fderal reform train has finally left the freakin’ station. (Sasha Beck / Leafly)

What will Schedule III change?

Cannabis’ new classification puts it on par with ketamine, Tylenol with codeine, and testosterone.

According to the DEA’s own definition, Schedule III substances present “a moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence.” Cannabis’ new classification puts it on par with ketamine, Tylenol with codeine, and testosterone.

One of the most potentially consequential impacts of rescheduling is also one of the wonkiest: Thanks to a line in federal tax code referred to as 280e, cannabis businesses pay crippling taxes, sometimes upwards of 65-75%. It also prevents businesses from deducting many of their expenses from their taxes. Thanks to rescheduling, the 280e policy will no longer apply; it could open the door to new growth and investment.

As a Schedule III substance, scientists will have easier access to researching cannabis as well. Furthermore, as Marijuana Moment points out, rescheduling could loosen restrictions around federal employees consuming cannabis.


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What does rescheduling leave unfixed?

In short, rescheduling cannabis to Schedule III is just a step toward full legalization. It does not decriminalize personal possession in prohibition states like Texas, nor does it facilitate interstate commerce.

 “It is a rather modest step given the strong support among American voters for comprehensive cannabis reform,” said Matthew Schweich, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, the nation’s leading cannabis policy reform organization.

What’s next?

The DEA’s recommendation for rescheduling now goes up for public comment—likely for several months through the General Election on Nov. 4. President Biden will likely campaign on promises kept. One poll shows the incumbent President receiving an 11 percentage-point bump in voter approval for rescheduling. Medical marijuana polls at 90% approval, while Gallup has legalization polling at 70%.

The rescheduling news offers the chance to increase pressure for bigger change as well, said longtime cannabis tax expert Henry Wykowski. He heads to Washington DC in May to lobby for reform, and said this provides ammo.

“This is good opportunity to keep the pressure up to make sure they really do follow through on it this time,” said Wykowski.

Experts react to the news

Experts applauded the DEA’s rescheduling move, and looked back on the hard-fought win.

Brian Vicente helped lead America into legalization from Colorado and is the founding partner of national cannabis law firm Vicente LLP, which has been actively engaged in the Coalition for Cannabis Scheduling Reform. He said the move is a big effing deal.

We have entered a new era of dialogue and policy around this historically maligned plant.”

Brian Vicente, Vicente LLP, Colorado

“This is a remarkable about-face by the DEA, which spent decades denying the true medical value of the cannabis plant. While a strong case can be made for removing cannabis from the federal drug schedules entirely, rescheduling marks a huge step forward for commonsense cannabis policy in our country. This action will have massive impacts, both practically for the cannabis industry and symbolically for the reform movement. We have entered a new era of dialogue and policy around this historically maligned plant.”

Shawn Hauser, partner at Vicente LLP who closely follows the federal scheduling process called ther move, “likely the best outcome possible, given the realities of the federal administrative review process. This historic action by the Biden administration has the potential to embolden Congress to finally pass legislation that federally legalizes and regulates cannabis for medical and adult use.”

The top cannabis tax attorney Wykowski affirmed rescheduling offers relief to embattled cannabis licensees. Their taxes would go down. They would be able to take business deductions for the first time.

“[The tax code section 280E] been a terrible, unfair burden on the whole licensed industry—people who are really trying to comply with the law. It favored people in the illicit market who continued to sell without being licensed, regulated, tested, or taxed.”

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Thailand Considers Relisting Cannabis as a Narcotic




The Thai government is contemplating the relisting of cannabis as a narcotic due to concerns over its recreational use and potential societal harms. This reconsideration comes after cannabis was decriminalized in June 2022, which led to a surge in its availability and use.

Cannabis Conundrum: Thailand Reconsiders Legal Status Amidst Rising Concerns

The recent decriminalization of cannabis in Thailand has ignited a complex debate over its legal status and societal impact. While the policy aimed to boost the medical marijuana industry and provide economic opportunities, the unintended rise in recreational use has sparked discussions about a potential reclassification.

Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, a key advocate for the decriminalization, emphasized that the policy was intended to promote medical use, not recreational. However, the current legal framework lacks clear regulations governing recreational use, leading to widespread availability and potential misuse.

The Bhumjaithai Party, led by Anutin, initially pushed for the delisting of cannabis to benefit the medical industry and provide economic opportunities for Thai citizens. However, the subsequent surge in recreational use, particularly among youths, has raised concerns about potential health and social consequences.

Opposition parties have criticized the government for inadequate regulations and are advocating for cannabis to be relisted as a narcotic under the Narcotics Act. They argue that the current situation exposes young people to potential harm and lacks sufficient safeguards.

A recent poll revealed that a majority of Thais support stricter regulations on cannabis use. Concerns have been raised about the potential impact on public health, particularly regarding mental health issues and addiction, especially among youths. Additionally, there are worries about the potential for increased crime and social disorder.

The government now faces the challenge of balancing the economic benefits of a burgeoning cannabis industry with the need to protect public health and safety. Finding a solution that addresses the concerns of both advocates and critics will be crucial in determining the future of cannabis in Thailand

Why It Matters

Thailand’s shift in cannabis policy has garnered international attention, serving as a case study for the complexities of drug policy reform. The potential reclassification of cannabis underscores the challenges of balancing economic opportunities with public health and safety considerations. The outcome of this debate will have significant implications for Thailand’s legal landscape, public health policies, and the future of its cannabis industry.

Potential Implications of Relisting Cannabis as a Narcotic

If cannabis is relisted as a narcotic, it could lead to stricter regulations on its cultivation, distribution, and use. This may impact the growth of the medical marijuana industry and limit access for patients who rely on cannabis for therapeutic purposes. Additionally, it could result in increased criminal penalties for possession and use, potentially leading to a rise in incarceration rates.

Alternatively, if the government opts to maintain the decriminalized status, it will need to implement robust regulations and public health campaigns to mitigate the risks associated with recreational use. This includes age restrictions, educational initiatives, and support systems for individuals struggling with cannabis dependence.

The Bigger Picture

The debate surrounding cannabis legalization and regulation is a global phenomenon, with countries around the world grappling with similar challenges. The Thai government’s decision regarding cannabis will likely be influenced by international trends and best practices in drug policy reform. It is crucial to consider the experiences of other nations that have legalized or decriminalized cannabis, examining both the successes and challenges they have encountered.

Source: Thai PBS World

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Portugal’s Opioid Strategy Offers Hope For the U.S. Crisis.




Portugal’s unique strategy in addressing its opioid crisis through decriminalization and a focus on healthcare and social services has led to significantly lower overdose deaths compared to the U.S. This approach contrasts sharply with the U.S. drug war model, emphasizing arrests and incarceration.

In Lisbon, Portugal, individuals addicted to street drugs express disbelief at the overdose death rates in the U.S., highlighting a stark contrast between the two countries’ drug policies. Portugal, with a population comparable to New Jersey, sees a fraction of the overdose deaths, averaging around 80 per year compared to New Jersey’s nearly 3,000. This difference is attributed to Portugal’s shift in the late 1990s from a punitive drug war model to a health-centered approach, integrating drug treatment, job training, and housing into its national healthcare system.

Portugal’s strategy involves decriminalizing personal drug use and redefining the role of police, who now refer drug users to counseling rather than arresting them. This approach has reduced stigma, avoided criminal records for drug users, and fostered a more supportive environment for recovery. The results are notable: an 80% reduction in drug deaths over 20 years and a significant decrease in HIV/AIDS and hepatitis cases.

Despite these successes, the U.S. faces challenges in adopting similar policies, including funding issues, legal barriers, and a complex addiction treatment system. Recent efforts in states like California and Oregon to decriminalize drugs and shift towards health care have faced implementation difficulties and a backlash amid rising overdose deaths and visible drug use.

Why It Matters: Portugal’s success in drastically reducing drug-related deaths and health issues through decriminalization and a health-focused approach offers valuable lessons for the U.S., where the opioid crisis continues to escalate. This model demonstrates the potential benefits of treating drug addiction as a health issue rather than a criminal one.

Potential Implications: Adopting elements of Portugal’s approach could lead to significant improvements in the U.S. opioid crisis, saving lives and reducing the burden on the criminal justice system. However, the political, healthcare, and societal differences between the two countries present challenges to implementing such a model in the U.S.


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Marijuana Legalization Versus Decriminalization




Over 40 states have some form of legal weed – either full recreational or a form of medical marijuana.  Plus, almost 90% of the country believes it should be legal in some form.  But it gets confused about decriminalization.  Marijuana legalization versus decriminalization, what is the difference and how does it affect consumers?

But if there is one confusion in this day and age concerning the methods of marijuana reform this country has been experimenting with, it’s precisely what the difference between legalization and decriminalization is. And which one is better in the grand scheme of longevity and public health and safety.

Which State Will Legalize Marijuana First In 2020- Kentucky, Ohio Or Indiana?
Photo by RobinOlimb/Getty Images

When a state legalizes marijuana, what it’s really doing is eliminating the laws it has associated with the possession and personal use of cannabis. It means people (typically adults 21 and older) can no longer be punished by the county, city or state for most marijuana-related offenses. 

These laws often come with possession limits, allowing adult individuals to hold up to an defined weight without getting into trouble. In many cases, these laws also allow adults to engage in home cultivation. Depending on the state, the rules essentially give adults the freedom to grow a certain number of plants in their home (or outside garden) for personal use.

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Legalization also gives the state government the power to establish a taxed and regulated market, allowing pot consumers to purchase cannabis products from a retail environment. Usually, the state gives local municipalities the freedom to decide whether they want to cater to pot shops or not. Just think of marijuana legalization in terms of how the alcohol trade works. Booze is fully legal, and adults 21 and older can buy it from liquor stores and other licensed retailers. But there are still some “dry” counties in parts of the country. Marijuana isn’t any different.  

State and local jurisdictions benefit from the legalization model, too, as they all collect tax revenue allotted for road construction, schools and combatting drug addiction. It turns out cannabis revenue is more valuable than alcohol or tobacco.

Which State Will Legalize Marijuana First In 2020- Kentucky, Ohio Or Indiana?
Photo by RobinOlimb/Getty Images

Decriminalization, however, is a different beast. These laws basically allow low-level marijuana offenders to escape jail and criminal charges. The rules are just a little less restrictive than in a full-blown prohibition regime and there is no retail market. Anyone caught for pot in a place where decriminalization is in effect can expect to receive a small fine (typically, between $50 and $200), and they may have to make an appearance in court. It just depends on the state or local authorities. But as long as small-time possession is involved, there is never a situation where an offender has to worry about spending time in jail, losing their vehicle or dealing with a criminal record.

RELATED: Does Legalizing Marijuana Help Or Harm Americans? Weighing The Statistical Evidence

Go over the possession limit, though, and it’s a different story altogether. Think of decriminalization as similar to a seat belt violation. It’s still against the law to drive around without a seat belt, but the cops aren’t going to cuff you for it. They’re going to hand you a citation, tell you to be careful and move on. But don’t expect to keep your weed. Police will usually seize it even though it is decriminalized. After all, it’s not legal to be in possession of marijuana, it’s just not a criminal offense. Several states and cities have gone this way rather than entertain a fully legal system.

With HHD, FDA and the DEA looking at rescheduling, it will add another wrinkle in how marijuana is classified in the nation and states.

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