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How to reschedule or deschedule marijuana under federal law



Rescheduling vs descheduling cannabis: What’s the deal? How would it happen?

On October 6, 2022, President Joe Biden called on Attorney General Merrick Garland and Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra to “initiate the process of reviewing how marijuana is scheduled under federal law.”

That process could result in three potential outcomes: Rescheduling cannabis, descheduling cannabis, or enacting no change at all. Read on to learn about the differences between these policies, and how the process could play out in the months and years to come.


President Biden to pardon federal marijuana prisoners and start rescheduling process

Rescheduling vs. descheduling, what’s the difference?

The federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) divides all known medicines, substances, or drugs into various categories based on their potential for abuse, medical applications and known benefits, and safety considerations. The schedule runs from least harmful (Schedule V) to most harmful (Schedule I).

Marijuana has been categorized as Schedule I, as harmful as heroin, since the CSA’s inception in 1970.

To reschedule a drug like marijuana means to move it from one category (Schedule I, reserved for the most dangerous drugs) to another (for example, Schedule II or Schedule III). Rescheduling marijuana would not make it federally legal. It would mainly lessen the barriers to scientific research.

To deschedule a drug like marijuana means to remove it from the Controlled Substances Act entirely. Descheduling marijuana would make it federally legal, but it would not invalidate state laws prohibiting the possession and distribution of cannabis. Alcohol and tobacco are two examples of intoxicating substances that remain federally unscheduled but are legally regulated by state authorities.


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Two ways to reschedule or deschedule marijuana

The easy way to change the federally scheduled status of cannabis is to pass a bill through Congress. Congress has the authority to amend the Controlled Substances Act and move marijuana to another schedule, or remove it from the CSA entirely.

The hard way is to reschedule or deschedule marijuana administratively. This is what President Biden set in motion on Oct. 6.

The ultimate authority over marijuana’s place within (or removal from) the Controlled Substances Act rests with the US Attorney General. But reaching that decision takes time and many, many smaller choices along the way.

FDA officials start preparing their input

Following Biden’s request, Attorney General Merrick Garland is expected to ask HHS officials for full medical and scientific input into the appropriate designation for cannabis.

Xavier Becerra, the HHS Secretary, then turns to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which is an HHS agency, to offer input on:

  • Scientific evidence of the pharmacological effect of cannabis
  • The state of current scientific knowledge regarding cannabis
  • Potential risks to public health from cannabis
  • The physical and psychological dependence/addiction risks of cannabis
  • The real or relative potential for abuse of cannabis
  • The history and current pattern of use and abuse of cannabis
  • The scope, duration, and significance of cannabis abuse

(Those bullet points were taken from an excellent report on rescheduling written by Brookings Institute drug policy experts John Hudak and Grace Wallack.)


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The Catch-22 embedded in the process

The Biden rescheduling could effectively end as early as the FDA review of available scientific research. Robert Hendricks and Alan Rogalski, attorneys with the Michigan firm of Warner Norcross + Judd, recently wrote about a Catch-22 created by the Schedule I status of cannabis. They observed:

“The DEA remains powerless to reschedule marijuana without a finding from the HHS that it has an accepted medical use or to deschedule without evidence that it should not be scheduled under the CSA at all. The current Schedule I status of marijuana makes it difficult for researchers to receive federal sources of funding to obtain the evidence-based clinical research necessary to support the rescheduling or descheduling of marijuana. While recent DEA policy has expanded the number of marijuana cultivators for research, the HHS is still far from obtaining the evidence necessary to support a change.”


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The DEA will likely have input, too

At the same time, a similar investigation and recommendation will likely take place within the Justice Department agency that oversees drugs from a crime perspective—the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

After gathering advice from the DEA and HHS, Attorney General Garland (or his successor) then either recommends moving forward with a change to marijuana’s status, or no change at all. Legally, the AG doesn’t need President Biden’s input, but it’s unlikely such a historic and politically important decision would be made without the President’s approval.

There is no legally mandated timeline for this. It could take a few months or it could drag on for years. The FDA began its inquiry into how to appropriately regulate cannabidiol (CBD) back in early 2019, and we’re still waiting for the agency’s decision more than three years later.

But that’s not the end of it.

Then a rulemaking process kicks in

If the Attorney General decides to move forward with a change in scheduling, then he starts a standard federal rulemaking process.

This involves long periods of drafting the proposed rule, getting input from various experts and agencies, going through a public comment period, finalizing the rule, and finally setting its effective date. Rescheduling—and descheduling in particular—could involve input from other government agencies. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would definitely participate. The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) could also offer input and have a role to play in a post-descheduling America.

This rulemaking stage could take another two to three years.

Biden may not have time to get it done

Given the time needed to carry out the proposed administrative rescheduling, it’s highly unlikely such a thing could be accomplished during President Biden’s first term.

If Biden were re-elected in 2024, or a Democrat with a favorable opinion of the project were to succeed him, this rescheduling or descheduling could be completed within that 2025-2029 term.

If a Republican were to win the White House in 2024, he or she could end the entire process on the day they take office in Feb. 2025. That’s not a sure thing. Plenty of Republican voters support legalization, even if the party’s older Congressional leaders tend to vote as a block against it.

How did we end up here, anyway?

Congress originally outlawed cannabis via the infamous Marihuana Tax Act of 1937. In the late 1960s, the psychedelics advocate and counterculture figure Timothy Leary challenged the constitutionality of the 1937 Act. Leary had been arrested for cannabis possession—a few seeds and half-smoked joints—while attempting to drive across the US-Mexico border in Dec. 1965. Leary spent years fighting the charge. That legal battle eventually ended up as Leary v. United States, which challenged the 1937 law on the grounds that it violated the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

In 1969, the US Supreme Court agreed with Leary. The unanimous decision effectively ended the life of the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937.

Rather than reconsider the illegal status of cannabis, Congress responded by scrambling to pass an omnibus drug prohibition bill. Thus was born the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970, which updated and brought together a bunch of disparate old drug laws within one neat legal framework. Contained within the Act of 1970 is the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), which divides all known drugs into categories based on their potential for abuse, medical applications, and safety considerations.


The history of cannabis prohibition in the United States

Why the US Attorney General has control

For decades, the debate over drug laws has pivoted around the question of whether drug use is a public health issue or a crime issue. During the creation of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), President Richard Nixon wanted to vest control of the CSA with the Attorney General, the nation’s top cop. Congress wanted the Surgeon General and the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (which later became today’s Department of Health and Human Services, or HHS) to oversee it.

Nixon won. The Justice Department would have final say, with advice and input from the federal health department.

We’ve been through something like this before

That’s why we have today’s convoluted process of rescheduling and/or descheduling. In 1970, marijuana was included as a Schedule I drug, but Congress knew it wasn’t really as dangerous as heroin, another Schedule I drug. So the House and Senate created a commission to study cannabis and recommend an appropriate scheduling level for the substance.

President Nixon appointed former Pennsylvania Gov. Raymond Shafer, a law-and-order Republican, to lead the commission. In March 1972, after months of admirably open-minded and even-handed research, the Shafer Commission presented its report to the President, which recommended “decriminalizing” marijuana.

Nixon effectively threw the report into the trash. He and his aides knew the War on Drugs offered Nixon an easy way to punish his perceived enemies—Democrats, liberals, hippies, and Black Americans.

And so marijuana remained a Schedule I drug for the next 50 years.

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Poilievre Misdiagnoses Opioid Crisis – Cannabis | Weed | Marijuana




Conservative Party leader Pierre Poilievre misdiagnoses the opioid crisis in the latest video, “Everything Feels Broken.”

In the five-minute video, Poilievre uses a Vancouver tent city as his backdrop to make a case for the drug war.

For a decade, British Columbia (among other Canadian cities) has provided a clean, safe supply of drugs for the addicted.

He calls it a “failed experiment” brought in by “woke Liberal and NDP governments,” before saying he’ll end this policy and instead put taxpayers’ money into recovery and treatment.

The narrative is easy to follow: there is a correlation between safe supply sites and opioid deaths. Ergo, one caused the other.

Unfortunately, data doesn’t support this narrative. Nor does the data support Poilievre’s claim that Alberta‘s anti-drug policy has worked better.

(In fact, how Alberta deals with opioids isn’t all that different from the rest of the country, including having safe supply sites in Edmonton and Calgary).

But if you want to critique Poilievre’s video, there are plenty of articles on this topic.

Most critics, however, defend safe supply sites, claim compassion for addicts, and, far from engaging with Poilievre on his ideas, merely parrot federal Addictions Minister Carolyn Bennett by calling the video “irresponsible” and “misguided.”

Pierre Poilievre is wrong about the cause of drug overdose deaths in Canada. And, like his critics, he’s also wrong about throwing money at “treatment and recovery.”

Just as his critics are wrong that taxpayer-funded “safe supply” is the way out of the crisis.

How Poilievre (And his Critics) Misdiagnose the Opioid Crisis

Poilievre Misdiagnoses Opioid Crisis

When Poilievre misdiagnoses the opioid crisis, it comes from a place of politics. His goal is to acquire Justin Trudeau’s PMO power, which has significantly increased since the Harper years.

Therefore, when ordinary families are facing a shortage of children’s pain medication, it’s apt time to go after the taxpayer-funded supply of hard drugs.

Especially since a decade of “safe supply” hasn’t produced immediate results.

Now, critics are right to point out that, in B.C., over 80% of overdoses don’t occur in the street but in a private residence or shelter. The problem is less about homeless people dying in the streets than the toxicity of street drugs.

That’s why safe supply sites work, say the supporters.

And Poilievre isn’t opposed to using taxpayer money to fund treatment policies. He disagrees with the means.

But in a discussion about Poilievre’s “Everything Feels Broken” video, almost no one has mentioned the elephant in the room: the corporate pharmaceutical conglomerates.

They caused the opioid crisis and profit from supplying methadone and Suboxone to safe supply sites.

Poilievre critics would be wise to stop with the surface-level attacks and get to the core of the issue. And Poilievre’s supporters would be wise to question their leader’s motives and proposed solutions.

If you want a villain, look no further than McKinsey & Company.

How McKinsey & Company Caused the Opioid Crisis

Poilievre Misdiagnoses Opioid Crisis

McKinsey & Company is a global management consulting firm. They’ve been around since the 1920s and are considered one of the “Big Three” consulting agencies worldwide.

They’ve also been involved in many controversies, from Enron, the ’08 financial crisis, insider trading, conflicts of interest, and associations with murderous dictators, including Saudi Arabia.

So it shouldn’t be a surprise they’ve played a role in the opioid epidemic.

McKinsey & Company wanted to “turbocharge” Oxycontin sales. They proposed strategies to combat the messages from real parents who lost their children to Oxy overdoses.

They also advised opioid makers on how to circumvent government regulations.

They’re the type of firm to crunch the numbers and figure out that it’s cheaper to pay $36.8 million to the families who’ve lost someone from an overdose than to stop selling the toxic crap.

In 2018/19, McKinsey & Company collected over $400 million by consulting pharmaceutical companies.

McKinsey’s services turned Endo from a small generic opioid manufacturer to one of the world’s largest opioid businesses.

McKinsey also recommended targeting and influencing doctors. They wanted elderly and long-term care patients hooked on opioids.

They’re staffed by a revolving door of consultants who either come from (or go on to work for) government regulators like the FDA and pharmaceutical clients like Purdue.

Purdue Pharma went into bankruptcy and had to pay a multi-billion-dollar settlement because it “intentionally conspired and agreed with others to aid and abet” the over-prescribing of painkillers “without a legitimate medical purpose.”

The idiom “the fox is guarding the henhouse,” has never been more relevant.

Poilievre spends five minutes criticizing his political opponents instead of the corporate-state cartel that has brought us to this point. That’s when you know Poilievre is misdiagnosing the opioid crisis.

Poilievre Misdiagnoses Opioid Crisis

While Poilievre misdiagnoses the opioid crisis, he does mention in passing the doctors who “prescribed and over-prescribed,” opioids.

For someone who goes on about gatekeepers, you’d think Poilievre could put two and two together. Yet, this was far as he went with that line of criticism.

If Poilievre wants to go after Justin Trudeau, why not point out that our blackface PM made a McKinsey crony (Dominic Barton) Canada’s ambassador to China in 2019?

(Although, in Justin’s defence, you could argue that dealing with a murderous regime that doesn’t believe in the sanctity of human life requires an ambassador who feels the same way).

Like most of Poilievre’s critiques of government, he misdiagnoses the opioid crisis by not going deeper into the issue and pointing fingers at his political opposition instead of the merging of corporate and state power.

And why would he?

Like Liberal and NDP governments, Conservatives adhere to lobbying concerns more than their constituents.

And when constituents get rowdy, like organizing an occupation in the nation’s capital, the corporate press is there to propagate a narrative that fools the masses and protects the financial interests of the elite.

That’s where critics on both sides fail to grasp the nature of the opioid crisis. Not only did pharmaceutical corporations cause this crisis (with help from the state), but they also profit from the proposed “solutions,” including safe supply.

So what’s the answer?

How Poilievre Can Reverse His Misdiagnoses of the Opioid Crisis

Poilievre Misdiagnoses Opioid Crisis

In his “Everything feels broken” video, where Poilievre misdiagnoses the opioid crisis, he proposes statist solutions like toughening security at the border to keep illegal drugs out of the country.

That’s obviously unrealistic. You’d have to claim complete ignorance of the global fentanyl trade to believe “strengthening the border” would work.

Further, Poilievre says, “There is no safe supply of these drugs.”

Indicating that even if we rid the country of killer opioids like fentanyl and carfentanyl, we’d still have a drug problem.

As if the mere existence of an opioid is enough to justify the drug war.

You won’t find the correct solution from Poilievre’s brand of quasi-libertarian politics. And you won’t find an answer from the various left-wing parties who have never found a problem more government spending couldn’t fix.

Politicians know who butters their bread. Additionally, cultural norms and attitudes about drugs shape our thinking.

But no matter how you slice it: no one has a right to your body except you.

Taken to its logical conclusion, someone throwing you in a cage for consuming opioids is an aggressor and a tyrant.

Meaning, the solution to Canada’s opioid crisis is to legalize heroin.

Legalizing “Hard” Drugs

Photo credit: Trey Patric Helten

Is there a difference between “hard” drugs like heroin and “soft” drugs like cannabis? Is one more addictive than the other? What about alcohol? Is that a “hard” or “soft” drug?

Perhaps the distinction itself is arbitrary.

Some drugs are more dangerous than others. Just as riding a motorcycle is more dangerous than driving a car. 

Too much of our conversation surrounding drugs, especially opioids, is wrapped up in language about “losing control” and “involuntarily behaviour.”

But this narrative is entirely false. Just as there are responsible cannabis consumers, there are responsible opioid consumers.

Problems arise when people behave according to the ideas they have about drugs. No one is living on the street and committing crimes to get their hands on refined sugar.

But if you limit the supply of the sweet stuff, I can guarantee you societal chaos is around the corner.

A refined sugar prohibition would incentive an illegal supply of sugar. And cutting that white powder with non-sugar is a sketchy but efficient way to boost profits.

Would the solution be to put sugar addicts into rehab centres where they lose whatever autonomy they have left?

Or would the solution be to set up clinics where the people jonesing the hardest could go for a safe supply?

Or is the solution legalizing all sugar and letting individuals decide what is best for them?

Poilievre misdiagnoses opioid crisis. But so do his critics. The answer is obvious. It’s only drug war propaganda that keeps us from seeing it. 

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Rhode Island’s first legal weed stores open to eager shoppers




Five facilities opened their doors to all adults for the first time, operating as hybrid medical and adult-use dispensaries.

On Thursday morning, Rhode Island became the nation’s 15th state to open legal adult-use cannabis stores. Excited customers braved 30° chills to experience some of New England’s most breath-taking cannabis storefronts. Dressed for the weather in down jackets, knit caps, and gloves, Rhode Island’s early birds got the bud at first-openers RISE in Warwick, and Mother Earth Wellness in Pawtucket.

Mother Earth Wellness opened ahead of schedule at 5 am Thursday. The dispensary welcomed first customer Karen Ballou, a local cultivator, who told WPRI, “It’s very exciting, it’s been a long time coming… It’s been a long six, six and a half years for me to get to this point, for all of us to get to this point so it was important to be the first sale,” Ballou said.

Rhode Island’s first legal cannabis sale went to Karen Ballou (left), who runs CultivationRI, a local grow operation. (WPRI)

Joe Pakuris is co-owner of Mother Earth Wellness, a vertical operation with the state’s only hydrocarbon extraction lab. Pakuris told Leafly there were no lines before or after their early opening, but that they expect to see 1,000 to 2,000 first day customers based on pre-registration and email inquiries.

“We’re very excited. We feel blessed to have the opportunity to service the Rhode Island market and feature all of the top cultivators in the state.”

Joe Pakuris, co-owners Mother Earth Wellness

RISE opened at 6 am in Warwick with a ribbon cutting, live music, and treats. The company’s New Jersey location provided similar fun at the crack of dawn when stores opened there in April.

“All of the products that have been available for medical patients are now available for the adult use side as well,” said store owner Anthony Georgiadis at the grand opening.

Georgiadis explained, “All of the products that have been available for medical patients are now available for the adult-use side as well.” He said RISE is ready for a rush stocked with “a ton of flower, a ton of pre-rolls, a ton of edibles.”

Here’s what first-timers should expect

(Mother Earth Wellness)

Pakuris advises first-time medical patients to be prepared to wait for paperwork to process. Adult-use customers just need government-issued ID, and have the option of paying in debit, credit, or cash (ATM available on-site).

More than 30 stores will eventually be licensed, but the rollout will be gradual. Today’s opening was limited to these stores:


Rhode Island’s weed stores open Dec. 1. Here’s how to find them

If you’re waiting in line in Rhode Island…

Let us entertain and educate you on the new rules. If this is your first time in a legal cannabis store, you’ll probably want to come up to speed on vape pens:

And you are definitely going to want to know about edibles and how to dose them:

What are Rhode Island’s new weed laws?

Under the new law, possession and home-growing of cannabis is now legal for adults above the age of 21.

Where can you smoke weed legally in Rhode Island?

Adults can smoke cannabis in any place where it’s legal to smoke tobacco. That means smoking and vaping is banned on school grounds and correctional facilities, as well as cities and towns that choose to opt-out, or ban smoking in specific places. Providence, Rhode Island added cannabis to an existing ban on smoking cigarettes in public parks last month.

Landlords can also ban smoking and vaping depending on rental agreement. But they can’t forbid possessing or eating edibles, or simply possessing cannabis under the legal limit in their property.

It’s illegal to smoke weed and drive

Possession of cannabis while driving will result in a 6-month driver’s license suspension. Rhode Island has a strict “drugged driving law.” It says no one is allowed to drive a motor vehicle if they have a detectable level of cannabis or any “illicit drug” in their body.

How will Rhode Island tax legal weed sales?

There will be a 20% tax on cannabis revenue. Allocations will be split into the 7% sales tax, a new 10% cannabis tax, and a 3% tax by the municipality where the product is sold.

Governor excited about opening day

Rhode Island Gov. Dan McKee issued this statement regarding the Dec. 1 opening of the state’s adult-use retail market: “This milestone is the result of a carefully executed process to ensure that our state’s entry into this emerging market was done in a safe, controlled and equitable manner,” said McKee. “It is also a win for our statewide economy and our strong, locally based cannabis supply chain, which consists of nearly 70 licensed cultivators, processors and manufacturers in addition to our licensed compassion centers.”

We don’t have confirmation, but it’s tradition for a newly legal state’s governor to pop in for a little press event at a store. Best bet will probably be the Thomas C. Slater Center in Providence. They open at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday.

Stay tuned for more day one updates from The Ocean State.

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Cannabis Legalization in Ireland? – Cannabis | Weed | Marijuana




Ireland is the latest European country to take a step closer to cannabis legalization. Introduced by a People Before Profit Party member, the bill would legalize cannabis possession for adults over 18.

However, the bill doesn’t include cannabis sales or cultivation. It is more decriminalization than the commercialization of the industry. The bill says possessing up to seven grams “shall be lawful,” despite no commercial market.

A top government official is skeptical that the bill will become law. Right now, it’s in the lower chamber of Ireland’s legislature.

“I hope the government can support this legislation. It is timely. Different parts of the world are looking at different models which do not criminalize people and which take a harm-reduction approach. I look forward to the debate,” said Gino Kenny, the politician who introduced the bill.

How soon until cannabis legalization comes to Ireland?

Cannabis Prohibition in Ireland

Cannabis Legalization in Ireland?

The illegality of cannabis in Ireland stretches back to the Dangerous Drugs Act of 1934, making Ireland one of the first countries to ban cannabis (beating the United States by three years).

And like the United States, cannabis legalization in Ireland may be an uphill battle. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, in response to the popularity of cannabis, the Irish government cracked down by implementing harsher criminal penalties.

Even today, if police catch you “trafficking” a large amount of cannabis, you can face up to 10 years in prison.

That said, despite what the laws say, attitudes and tolerance have adjusted over the last twenty years. This isn’t the first time politicians have introduced a cannabis legalization bill in Ireland.

In 2013, a motion was put forth to legalize cultivation, possession, and a commercial market. However, within the Irish legislature, only eight people voted for it, with 111 voting in favour of continued prohibition.

MMJ in Ireland

In 2016, Gino Kenny introduced a private member’s bill to legalize medical cannabis. (The same politician that introduced the latest cannabis legalization in Ireland bill).

The government was cautious but went forward with it. Over two years, the Irish government only approved two dozen medical cannabis licences.

It wasn’t until June 2019 that medical cannabis legalization in Ireland took off. The Health Minister set up a new program that eased patients’ access by allowing them to buy cannabis at a pharmacy. It also expanded the criteria of who was eligible for medical cannabis.

The government called it a measure of “last resort,” since patients were travelling to countries like the Netherlands to get medical cannabis.

Cannabis Legalization in Ireland When?

There is still pushback about cannabis legalization in Ireland. The Irish prime minister worries that legalization would ” glamorize” cannabis use.

“I think we have to be careful that we don’t glamorize cannabis either because there are real concerns within the health community and the medical community about what cannabis can do to young people,” he told media.

As well, the current Irish government is a coalition between different parties, none of which have a unified (or even favourable) stance regarding cannabis legalization in Ireland.

That said, if cannabis legalization in Ireland becomes a reality, it will likely suffer from the same bureaucratic excesses that strangle cannabis legalization in Canada.

For example, the Irish PM said, “Cannabis can do real harm too, to young people, and many people in the medical world have said that to me. That’s just a concern I have.”

Translation: Cannabis may not benefit young adults. Ergo, I will take the advice of public health and continue with harmful prohibition or bureaucratic decriminalization instead of recognizing that people have a right to bodily autonomy.

It’s the same story no matter where you go. An undemocratic public health order kneecaps your right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

On a positive note, the Irish government announced a Citizens’ Assembly on Drug Use in 2023. If enough people express their desire for a classically liberal, legal market, then cannabis legalization in Ireland may be here sooner than later.

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