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What Changing the Category of Marijuana Means for America

Marijuana (Credits: The Seattle Times)

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is considering reclassifying marijuana, moving it from the highly restricted “Schedule I” group to the less tightly regulated “Schedule III.” This shift would acknowledge the medical benefits of cannabis while maintaining restrictions on recreational use.

However, this proposal is still in the early stages. It must undergo review by the White House Office of Management and Budget, followed by a public-comment period and evaluation by an administrative judge. This process could be lengthy.

Drug Enforcement Administration (Credits: KTSM 9 News)

The reclassification of marijuana would not immediately legalize recreational cannabis nationwide. Schedule III drugs, which include substances like ketamine and anabolic steroids, remain controlled substances subject to strict regulations and federal criminal prosecution for unauthorized trafficking.

While the reclassification may not lead to outstanding changes in existing medical marijuana programs or legal recreational cannabis markets, it could impact research and taxation in the cannabis industry.

Currently, marijuana’s Schedule I classification makes it challenging to conduct authorized clinical studies involving the drug. Rescheduling to Schedule III could facilitate research, although barriers may still exist.

Additionally, under the current federal tax code, businesses involved in marijuana “trafficking” cannot deduct certain expenses, resulting in high effective tax rates. Reclassifying marijuana to Schedule III would allow cannabis companies to deduct expenses like rent and payroll, potentially reducing their tax burden and improving competitiveness.

Marijuana Plant (Credits: Vox)

However, critics argue that rescheduling marijuana is insufficient and that the focus should be on removing it entirely from the controlled substances list.

They contend that maintaining any federal classification perpetuates a divide between state and federal policies and fails to address the disproportionate impact of marijuana prohibition on marginalized communities.

While the potential reclassification of marijuana represents a remarkable shift in drug policy, its implications for research, taxation, and legalization efforts remain subject to ongoing debate and scrutiny.

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