- The majority of states have legalized cannabis for medical and/or recreational use.
- Cannabis is classified as a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law.
- Rescheduling cannabis within the Controlled Substances Act would not resolve the conflicts between state and federal cannabis laws.
- A recommendation to deschedule cannabis would remove federal interference and allow states to establish their own marijuana policies.
Since California legalized the use of cannabis for medical purposes in 1996, there has been a significant divide between state-level marijuana policies and federal law.
Currently, the majority of states and the District of Columbia allow the production and sale of cannabis to qualifying patients. Some states also regulate the possession and use of marijuana by adults.
However, according to the U.S. Controlled Substances Act of 1970, cannabis is classified as a prohibited controlled substance. This classification creates a legal conflict between state and federal laws. The Drug Enforcement Administration enforces the CSA, while the Food and Drug Administration determines the medical efficacy of substances.
Cannabis is classified as a Schedule I substance, which is the most restrictive category. To be classified as Schedule I, a substance must have a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in the U.S., and no accepted safety for use under medical supervision.
Alcohol and tobacco, both known to be more harmful than cannabis, have never been classified under the Controlled Substances Act. This distinction allows states to have greater flexibility in regulating alcohol and tobacco products. However, when it comes to scheduled prescription substances, states have limited flexibility.
Over the years, there have been several petitions to reschedule or deschedule cannabis, but the DEA has consistently decided to keep it classified as a Schedule I controlled substance. Rescheduling cannabis within the CSA would not resolve the conflicts between state and federal cannabis laws.
Reclassifying cannabis to a lower schedule would still misrepresent its safety compared to other controlled substances. Rescheduling also does not provide states with the legal authority to regulate cannabis without federal interference.
Descheduling cannabis, on the other hand, would remove it from the Controlled Substances Act altogether. This would allow states to establish their own marijuana policies without federal intrusion.
Rescheduling may provide some opportunities for clinical research, but many obstacles to cannabis research exist regardless of its scheduling. Removing cannabis from the CSA would be the most productive outcome, respecting state jurisdiction and removing federal barriers to the cannabis industry.