Feds’ recommendation far from a done deal | Cannabis

Aari Ruben
6 Min Read

For more than 50 years, cannabis has been categorized as a Schedule I drug with no accepted medical uses.

In October 2022, President Joe Biden ordered health and human services to study the most appropriate classification in which to place cannabis sativa, and to make a recommendation to the DEA for possible rescheduling or descheduling.

After 10 months of study at the end of August HHS made its recommendation, which is to place cannabis into Schedule III alongside moderate doses of codeine and ketamine. This contrasts with their long-held position that cannabis belonged in Schedule I alongside heroin.

Notably, fentanyl, cocaine and meth are Schedule II drugs.

This sounds like a big step in the right direction and has clear potential benefits to the cannabis industry but as usual the devil is in the details and it’s far from a done deal.

The DEA had rejected every effort to reschedule cannabis for a long time. It has repeatedly stated that there are no known medical uses for cannabis, thus its firm position.

Clearly, in 2023, we are beyond that argument. We have medical marijuana laws in almost 40 states and many people have used cannabis treatments to heal from a wide variety of ailments. Sativex and Epidiolex have already been approved as treatments.

So, what’s the big deal?

For cannabis businesses already in operation, they will benefit by receiving fair tax treatment. No longer will expenses associated with the sale of a Schedule I substance be denied based on IRS code 280e. This could prove to be a strong tailwind for cannabis companies in operation.

For some time, the SAFE Banking Act has sought to give state legal cannabis operators access to banking for use of operating accounts and for access to business loans. While this rescheduling petition is not a direct path to banking, it may make Congress’ job of approving such a change more palatable and a favorable result more likely.

The industry as we know it could be at risk because the state legal dispensary model is different in every state’s market. Some state regulations may not provide those licensees with continued legal protections.

This could end up being a handoff of medical cannabis to the pharmaceutical industry, which favors plant extracts as opposed to raw plant material.

For these reasons pro cannabis lobbyists and activists mostly prefer a scheme consisting of the descheduling of cannabis and for the plant to be regulated in a manner similar to alcohol. This would allow each state to set its own rules, with many favoring a three-stage regulation consisting of producers, distributors and retailers.

Human rights activists say legalization without repatriations to those harmed most by several generations of corrupt cannabis policy is not satisfactory. They want minorities and the marginalized populations most affected by cannabis policy to be compensated, and for their legal records to be expunged.

In my mind, the most important questions surround the nonsensical, corrupt, heavy-handed regulation that has been allowed to go on for far too long and seemingly unapologetic potential reversal of policy. It makes me wonder what else we accept at face value from our government that might wisely be questioned or revamped.

Despite the hype, this HHS recommendation is far from the final word on the subject. The DEA has its own administrative process and has denied similar petitions many times.

For decades, there was only one research university in Mississippi that was permitted to grow research medicine. It became adept at growing very poor-quality cannabis. It had no access to modern genetics and its methods were suspect. The product that was produced under this program was significantly different in nature and chemical composition to the high-quality cannabis available in the many state markets.

We will see what the DEA decides to do. If the change is made as recommended, we will see how it affects important business and personal issues alike. Will the existing cannabis operators flourish? Will the pharmaceutical industry take over the market for medically focused cannabis products? Will patients enjoy the same safe legal access to the products they need that they currently enjoy?

It may take some time. DEA has a history of sitting on things for long periods of time.

In the meantime, join us and see what all the hype is about. Perhaps you can find benefit from lady cannabis’ charms and weigh in with your opinion of these current cannabis-related administrative process.

Aari Ruben www.tucsonweekly.com News & Opinion/Cannabis

2023-09-14 08:00:00 , Tucson Weekly –

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