DEA Proposes Historic Rescheduling of Cannabis

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) just made a monumental move by proposing to shift cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule III under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). This decision marks a long-awaited recognition of cannabis’s potential medical benefits and lower-than-expected abuse potential.

For those unfamiliar with the scheduling system, let’s break it down: Schedule I substances, like heroin and LSD, are considered the most dangerous, with a high potential for abuse and no recognized medical value. Cannabis has been unjustly lumped into this category for over 50 years. Moving it to Schedule III would place it alongside substances like ketamine and anabolic steroids, recognizing its accepted medical use and lower potential for abuse.

This decision is more than just bureaucratic reshuffling—it’s a step toward correcting a long history of injustice. Cannabis’s harsh classification traces back to racist and xenophobic policies that targeted communities of color. Harry J. Anslinger, the first commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, spearheaded a campaign against cannabis, fueling racial bias and spreading false claims about its dangers. His efforts, amplified by the racially charged climate of the time, led to the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 and, eventually, the Controlled Substances Act of 1970.

The repercussions of these policies are still felt today, with Black and Latinx communities bearing the brunt of cannabis criminalization. Despite similar usage rates, they are disproportionately targeted for arrests and incarceration. Efforts to legalize cannabis at the state level and the introduction of federal legislation aim to address these injustices by expunging non-violent cannabis convictions and dismantling the legacy of the War on Drugs.

The impact of this decision is also a game-changer for cannabis businesses. Moving cannabis to Schedule III could mean federal tax deductions for these businesses, which have long been denied under current IRS regulations. This shift could provide much-needed relief and legitimacy to an industry that’s been operating in the shadows for far too long.

However, amidst the celebration, it’s essential to acknowledge the negative aspects of this decision. While the DEA will no longer actively assist local police on weed investigations except for major trafficking cases, cannabis remains federally illegal. This means people can still be arrested for cannabis-related crimes on a state-by-state basis, and individuals can still face jail time for growing weed. Furthermore, the cannabis industry will now be lumped in with the pharmaceutical industry, potentially altering its culture and practices.

There’s also speculation about the motives behind this decision, with some suggesting it may have been driven by political agendas rather than genuine concern for justice. While progress is being made, there’s still much work to be done. True justice requires freeing everyone incarcerated for non-violent cannabis charges and dropping the drug test screening process for employment nationwide.

Ultimately, what the stoner community truly wants is the complete descheduling of cannabis—a step that would truly reflect the plant’s potential and remove the stigma that has plagued it for far too long.

Jaeger, K. (2024, April 30). DEA agrees to reschedule marijuana under federal law in historic move following Biden-Directed health agency’s recommendation Marijuana Moment.

Fernandez, M. (2022, October 7). Redressing America’s Racist Cannabis Laws: How Voters and Policymakers Can Enact Change. Legal Defense Fund.

End of: DEA Proposes Historic Rescheduling of Cannabis