Rescheduling Cannabis: What does it mean and is it going to happen. Cannabis is, as of right now, a Schedule 1 drug in the United States. Schedule 1 drugs are considered to be inherently dangerous, with no medicinal value. Drugs such as heroine and methamphetamine are Schedule 1 drugs; they are completely banned.
Marijuana has been a Schedule 1 drug for much of the 20th and into the 21st century. Since the Prohibitionist movements of the first part of the 20th century, exemplified by the ludicrously fear mongering film “Reefer Madness,” and even extending into the “Just Say No” campaign of the 1990s, there has been a widespread misconception that marijuana is a dangerous drug that causes psychosis and can kill.
In fact, marijuana is far less lethal and mind-altering than alcohol, which is a completely legal drug, and is less addictive than tobacco, which can be enjoyed at an even younger age than alcohol can. In addition, marijuana has many proven health benefits, which Schedule 1 drugs do not have.
Therefore, many activists and activist groups have put pressure on the DEA to reschedule cannabis. The proposed rescheduling would make cannabis a Schedule 2 drug, putting it in the same category as narcotic painkillers.
What would rescheduling mean?
As a Schedule 2 drug, there would be no federal ban on marijuana anymore. It would still be illegal to buy and sell it. Instead, you could only get it with a prescription. In addition, as a Schedule 2 drug, doctors would be encouraged to be cautious about prescribing marijuana, though as with codeine and other narcotics it would be entirely up to the doctor’s discretion how much he or she prescribed for patients who needed it.
While you would be able to go up to your local Walgreens or CVS with a prescription and get your marijuana, there may still be restrictions on what form that marijuana will take. Since there are health risks associated with smoking regardless of what is being smoked, a rescheduling of cannabis may include a requirement that only edibles or oils could be prescribed. There may even be requirements on what levels of THC are allowable. These are details which are simply not available until Congress begins discussions on rescheduling based on a DEA recommendation – and that looks unlikely to happen now until September at earliest.
Is it going to happen?
In early 2016, the DEA put its recommendation to Congress to have marijuana rescheduled to a Schedule 2 drug. At that time, Congress promised to vote on it in the first half of 2016. However, the first half of 2016 has come and gone and Congress is now in recess until September (http://thehill.com/homenews/house/287721-congress-leaving-for-seven-week-recess). If marijuana is going to be rescheduled, therefore, it will not be until the fall. Once September comes around, also, both parties will be focusing with tunnel vision on the general election, and it is possible that the marijuana rescheduling will be ignored until we know who the next president will be. In addition, the downgrading of marijuana from Schedule 1 is now officially on the Democratic platform, which may give Congress an extra incentive to not deal with the issue until the election is over. Therefore at this point it is unclear when marijuana will be downgraded, but it seems likely that it will happen at some point in the not too distant future.
Rescheduling and recreational marijuana
Rescheduling marijuana could possibly be terrible for recreational Mary Jane. As a Schedule 2 drug, marijuana would be easily accessible to anyone with a prescription – and no longer accessible at all to anyone who could not get a prescription.
On the other hand, states with recreational marijuana are already flouting the federal classification of marijuana and simply refusing to enforce the federal law. They may choose to continue to do so with a rescheduling. The strategic benefit of this choice is unclear, since rescheduling would itself be a significant victory and a refusal to follow the federal guidelines under a rescheduling could possibly push Congress to refuse to reschedule it at all. Thus recreational marijuana states are stuck in a sort of catch-22. If marijuana is rescheduled, it will be interesting to see whether recreational marijuana states are able to keep Mary Jane legal, or if they will have to relegate it all to drugstores.
Rescheduling vs decriminalizing
Rescheduling and decriminalizing are not the same thing. Rescheduling marijuana would be putting it in the same category as dangerous drugs that have a medicinal benefit which can, in some cases, outweigh the danger and negative side effects. You can get it if a doctor agrees that you need it, but you will be limited on how much you can get, how frequently you can get more, and even how you are allowed to take it.
Decriminalizing marijuana, on the other hand, would simply put it in the category of everything else that the government doesn’t care about. Buying, selling, growing, and smoking marijuana would be like playing Pokemon Go in the eyes of the law. Don’t drive distracted or impaired, don’t recklessly endanger anyone, and try to have some common sense.
Decriminalizing marijuana would result in the greatest freedom for everyone. However, the current state of politics is such that decriminalization seems unlikely to be in the cards, at least for a while. Perhaps if the DEA would reschedule cannabis and the country saw that it did not lead to an epidemic of psychotic, drug-fueled crime, it would be easier to make progress on the conversation about decriminalization.