Many states are legalizing weed. But it is still not legal on a federal level. So, will cannabis become federally legal? This article will tell you all you need to know.
The Concept of Rescheduling Cannabis
When considering the question, ‘will cannabis become federally legal?’ we must think about the possibility of rescheduling it.
Cannabis is currently classified as a Schedule I drug under the federal Controlled Substances Act. This means possession of cannabis is almost entirely banned except for certain research purposes. It is in a classification alongside heroin showing it to have no legitimate medical use.
One option the government is looking at is to move it lower on the tier. If it was moved to a Schedule II drug, it would be in the same classification as opioids. It would be prescribed for pain management and perhaps other uses. But the prescriptions would be highly regulated by the Drug Enforcement Administration.
If it was moved to Schedule V, it would be on a level with cough syrups that contain small amounts of codeine. It would be minimally controlled by the DEA.
Issues with Rescheduling
Rescheduling cannabis could be a happy medium and a solution to the ‘will cannabis become federally legal’ debate. But it comes with its share of issues.
If marijuana was rescheduled, it would conflict with existing state medical marijuana programs.
In some states, doctors are only allowed to recommend cannabis to patients- they aren’t permitted to prescribe it. Only the FDA can approve prescription drugs. However, it cannot approve or regulate products sold under state law.
If cannabis was rescheduled to be classified as a prescription drug, it would be subject to FDA regulation and doctors would have to follow the same regulations that apply to other drugs in their state. It would also mean doctors could prescribe the drug for a variety of conditions.
What About Taking it Off the Schedule Completely?
While rescheduling is something to think about when considering will cannabis become federally legal, there is also the possibility of taking it off the schedule completely.
If marijuana was rescheduled, the selling of recreational cannabis would still be prohibited by federal law unless it was entirely removed from the schedule. However, this is unlikely as the Controlled Substance Act requires all drugs with potential for abuse to be scheduled, except for tobacco and alcohol.
In the unlikely event that cannabis was descheduled, Congress would still be likely to intervene and impose some sort of control. It would also mean states could still ban marijuana on a local level.
What Would it Mean for Businesses if Cannabis Became Rescheduled?
The question will cannabis become federally legal makes one wonder how legalization would effect marijuana businesses.
Currently, many marijuana businesses are in limbo as financial institutions shy away from them, even in states where cannabis is completely legal. This makes it difficult for them to gain funding, process payments, and open bank accounts.
Jim Thorburn, a lawyer who represents marijuana businesses, said that would be unlikely to change, even if marijuana was legalized at a federal level. ‘’Recreational use would still be problematic because that could still be considered unlawful drug trafficking,” he said.
However, he noted that federal legalization might ease access to the financial system. This sentiment was backed by the Alex Kreit of the Salmon P. Chase College of Law at Northern Kentucky who said that rescheduling the drug “could give more banks and financial operators more confidence and comfort” in dealing with marijuana businesses.
What Steps Have Been Taken at a Federal Level?
While politicians are still pondering the question, will cannabis become federally legal, there have been positive steps taken in the government.
Joe Biden said he would pardon people convicted in federal court of simple marijuana possession. However, relatively few people in the United States are convicted of simple possession in federal court.
Most people with federal marijuana-related convictions were found guilty of more serious trafficking offenses which are not covered by the pardon. Those convicted of simple possession are typically convicted on a state level.
However, according to a senior administration official, the pardon would affect 6500 people with federal convictions. While none of them is currently in prison, clearing the convictions would make it easier for them to find jobs or housing.
There are also quite a few states that are issuing their own pardons which would help people with state-level convictions.
Will Cannabis Become Federally Legal?
In terms of the question, will cannabis become federally legal, the Biden administration is also considering the reclassification of cannabis. Many are backing the reform and seeing it as long overdue. However, the challenges stated above are making it difficult for the government to proceed.
Biden has expressed that he’d like to see cannabis rescheduled as Schedule II. He was the only Democratic presidential candidate on the 2020 ballot that did not support descheduling. However, the decision is ultimately made by the DEA with input from the Food and Drug Administration.
In 2022, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer introduced a bill to deschedule cannabis and expunge some federal records. Although the expungement of federal records did eventually happen, his bill did not have enough votes for Senate to pass. Therefore, cannabis remains on the schedule.
Other supporters of descheduling include Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), one of the co-chairs of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, and Democratic Pennsylvania Senate candidate John Fetterman.
Biden has agreed to a review process, but this would not result in the descheduling of marijuana. It would simply move it to a lower classification tier.
The Drug Policy Alliance, which is in favor of the legalization of all drugs, criticized Biden for refusing to deschedule the drug saying, “Keeping marijuana on the federal drug schedule will mean people will continue to face criminal charges for marijuana. It will also mean that research will continue to be inhibited and state-level markets will be at odds with federal law.
Even Biden-allied lawmakers such as Sen. Ron Widen (D-Ore) encouraged the President to go further saying “a comprehensive federal solution is needed.
So the answer to the question, will cannabis become federally legal remains unknown. However, it is more likely that it will move down the classification tiers before it’s descheduled. The outcome is something only time will tell.