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420 with CNW — Rescheduling Cannabis Could Lead to Broader Acceptance by the Mainstream Medical Industry

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Moving cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) could have significant implications for medical cannabis recommendations by doctors and potential insurance coverage for marijuana treatments. Currently, doctors refrain from prescribing state-regulated medical cannabis due to the risk of losing their licenses given that it lacks approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Even if the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reschedules cannabis, the prohibition on doctors prescribing state-regulated medical marijuana (MMJ) products would persist. Nevertheless, doctors could continue to recommend non-FDA-approved cannabis products to individuals seeking MMJ cards, allowing them to register as marijuana patients in their states.

Moving cannabis to Schedule III would enable doctors to prescribe FDA-approved marijuana medicines. This would align with the current practice where physicians are authorized to prescribe Schedule III substances, such as Tylenol with codeine, only if they have FDA approval.

Leah Sera, codirector of the University of Maryland’s Graduate Studies in Medical Marijuana program, highlighted that physicians prescribing Schedule III substances would be a substantial change. However, she warned that the scope may not be as extensive as the current dispensary offerings. FDA approval would still be necessary, requiring marijuana drugs to undergo the approval process before prescription, sale and dispensing in pharmacies.

Rescheduling might stimulate increased research and development of marijuana-based drugs. However, the lengthy FDA approval process means that prescriptions for new cannabis-related products could be years away, according to Justin Brandt of the Bianchi and Brandt law firm.

Sera notes that while rescheduling won’t permit doctors to prescribe medical cannabis from state-licensed dispensaries, it could positively impact their attitudes toward the substance. “Rescheduling might not directly allow prescriptions for state-licensed dispensary products, but it could foster informed discussions between medical providers and patients about marijuana and its potential benefits and risks,” she stated.

Attorney Eric Berlin, an attorney at Dentons Law Firm, states that moving marijuana to Schedule III could also render FDA-approved cannabis products eligible for insurance coverage. Currently, insurance covers only FDA-approved drugs.

However, there are exceptions, as some states such as New York, New Mexico, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Minnesota and Connecticut allow workers’ compensation reimbursement for medical cannabis. In contrast, others do not obligate insurance carriers to reimburse for medical marijuana costs. Some states, such as Massachusetts, outright prohibit insurance coverage for medical cannabis.

Julie Schum of the Quintairos, Prieto, Wood and Boyer law firm noted that insurers might find covering medical marijuana more cost-effective than opiates since at least 30% of worker’s compensation claims involve opiate prescriptions. Such a decision would lead to a lot more insured people opting for medical cannabis products from enterprises such as Trulieve Cannabis Corp. (CSE: TRUL) (OTCQX: TCNNF) if they were sure insurance would cover the cost.

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