A collective appeal has been made by six state governors to President Joe Biden, urging him to facilitate the rescheduling of cannabis by year’s end. The letter, jointly signed by the governors of New York, Colorado, New Jersey, Illinois, Maryland and Louisiana, stresses the economic and fiscal advantages that would accrue to marijuana businesses if rescheduling occurs.
Currently classified as a Schedule I substance under the CSA, cannabis is federally considered a hazardous substance. Reclassifying it to Schedule III designates it as a lower-risk substance and would provide increased protection to the existing state-level cannabis industry and its consumers, benefiting both public health and the economy.
Last year, President Biden initiated a review of cannabis’ schedule, tasking the attorney general and HHS secretary with the exploration of reclassifying the substance from Schedule I. In August, the HHS sent a letter to the DEA advocating for the cannabis reclassification to Schedule III. Despite this, notable progress in rescheduling cannabis has been lacking since then.
The governors, in their letter, lend their support to the call for cannabis rescheduling, underscoring that 38 states have legalized cannabis for either recreational or medical use. Furthermore, 88% of people in the country back legalization, according to a 2022 Pew Research survey.
The economic advantages serve as a compelling endorsement for cannabis rescheduling. The letter reveals that state programs have contributed $14.9 billion in tax revenue to fund law enforcement, education and other historically underfunded priorities. Economically, reclassifying cannabis would alleviate the restrictions imposed by Section 280E of the IRS, allowing cannabis businesses to claim ordinary deductions, just as other U.S. businesses do.
The governors elucidate in the letter that relieving cannabis businesses of the burdens of Section 280E would render the industry financially viable, simultaneously preserving jobs and ensuring the health and safety of consumers. The governors also express concern about consumer health risks stemming from the absence of a federal cannabis policy, citing worries about unregulated products. They advocate for cannabis rescheduling to fortify protection against the unlicensed market and argue that maintaining its Schedule I status and prohibition policies is futile given the significant consumer demand for marijuana.
The fate of cannabis rescheduling lies with the DEA, which holds final authority over drug scheduling. The DEA has historically rejected rescheduling, citing reasons such as a lack of reproducible and known chemistry, limited expert support, and insufficient efficacy and safety studies. Once made, the DEA’s decision will be subject to a proposed regulation and notice-and-comment period and may face legal challenges because no specified timeframe is currently in place.
Cannabis rescheduling would remove one of the many hurdles that U.S.-based marijuana companies such as Trulieve Cannabis Corp. (CSE: TRUL) (OTCQX: TCNNF) have to navigate in their bid to serve a growing client base.
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