While the money appears to be on cannabis rescheduling in the USA, a group of New York leaders have added their voices to the push for descheduling it altogether.
Cannabis is listed as a Schedule I substance under the USA’s Controlled Substances Act – in the same category as substances such as heroin. This is even though Schedule 1 is reserved for the most dangerous drugs; in a country where the majority of states have medical marijuana and/or cannabis programs in place.
But changes are likely in the pipeline after US President Joe Biden initiated a review into how marijuana is scheduled under federal law in October 2022. Appointed the task of carrying out the review and providing the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) with its recommendations, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has recommended cannabis be rescheduled to Schedule III. This is the classification for drugs with a moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence.
The DEA will have final say and for some, a decision to down-schedule won’t go far enough.
Among other New York local lawmakers, advocates, business and non-profit leaders, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has called on the Attorney General and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to deschedule marijuana altogether.
“Descheduling marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act is not just a social justice issue; it’s an economic, medical, and public safety issue,” said the Senator, who stated countless lives have been torn apart during the war on drugs.
“The vast majority of Americans agree that marijuana should be legalized – that’s why I’m calling on the Attorney General and the Drug Enforcement Administration to swiftly deschedule marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act.”
A Gallup poll conducted Oct. 2-23 last year found 70% of U.S. adults favor legalization. 10 years earlier in 2013, support hit the 50% threshold
So, what’s the problem with just rescheduling? Executive Director of Empire State NORML David Holland says it could create a national medical monopoly replacing the existing cannabis industry found in New York and dozens of other states.
“Such an industry contraction and concentration of the ownership of the means of production to the medical industry could stifle competition and inhibit strain development and cannabinoid innovation richly found in the existing and ongoing market,” he said.
In New York, it is legal for adults 21 and older to possess up to three ounces of cannabis and up to 24 grams of concentrated cannabis for personal use. Medical cannabis has been legally available to residents through the State’s medical marijuana program since 2014.