Reclassifying Marijuana from Schedule I Designation

Marijuana advocates for legal reform have rallied for the reclassification of marijuana for decades. But their fight has taken on new meaning in the last several years as medical marijuana usage becomes more common and accepted. But what does reclassification from Schedule I mean and why does it matter?

The Controlled Substances Act is a federal act that defines and classifies drugs. Within this Act, the government classified all illegal drugs into groups called “Schedules”. These Schedules are ranked, in essence, on their dangerousness. Schedule I is the most serious classification, considered to contain some of the most dangerous drugs of all.

In Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act you will find heroin, LSD, peyote, and marijuana. According to the Act, these drugs must fit three criteria:

  1. They are highly addictive
  2. They have no medically accepted use
  3. There is a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision

Most experts and reasonable people believe that NONE of these criteria should apply to cannabis. Yet this is the official policy of the US Federal Government.

  • There is extensive science about the legitimate medical uses for cannabis, for cancer patients and treatment and alleviation of systems for many other conditions.
  • Twenty states (and DC) now allow at least some legal medical use of marijuana, with more on the way.
  • A number of state Governors are on record supporting reclassification.

It is simply absurd for the federal government to maintain the claim of that marijuana does have any accepted medical uses.

What Would Federal Marijuana Reclassification Achieve?

The federal government and the states with legal recreational and medical marijuana laws are at odds. The states have decided that their citizens should be able to use marijuana for medical reasons under a doctor’s supervision. The feds state that marijuana use is still against federal law and that they have a right to enforce these laws.

Can the Department of Justice change marijuana from Schedule 1?The DOJ memo of August 2013 was a really positive step, and changes priorities of what the Feds say they will prosecute. While federal law enforcement agencies seem to have left the medical marijuana patients alone, they have conducted raids on dispensaries, even those strictly adhering to state laws.

Reclassification from Schedule I would mean that the federal government has recognized there is a legitimate medical use for marijuana. Ideally, it would mean they would back off of the state’s wishes to dispense marijuana as a medical treatment and stop penalizing patients and their lawful suppliers.

So far, the federal government has argued that the scientific proof of marijuana’s medical usage isn’t enough. They claim the research presented isn’t adequate nor have there been sufficient safety studies completed. Until they believe marijuana is safe and effective in medical treatment, it seems the drug will remain a Schedule I substance.

While Oregon took it upon themselves to reclassify marijuana as a Schedule II substance, this was only within the state and it has little bearing on whether or not the federal government intervenes within their state’s medical marijuana operations.