A big topic of discussion in the cannabis industry is the deschedulization (or reschedulization) of cannabis from a Schedule I illegal substance.
For a substance to be designated under federal Schedule I, the following findings are required:
- The drug or other substance has a high potential for abuse;
- The drug or other substance has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the U.S.;
- There is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision.
I believe that the cannabis industry should be working hard NOW to attack the last two findings regarding cannabis, in an effort to get it deschedulized.
Clearly, there are numerous medical uses for cannabis that are currently accepted for medical use by doctors in the U.S.: Cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy; epileptic children that suffer seizures; glaucoma patients; individuals with PTSD; individuals with severe pain, fibromyalgia and other illnesses.
We must gather together as many doctors and medical experts as we can to support to truth: that there is an accepted medical treatment in the U.S. for cannabis, and there is an acceptance of safety for the use of cannabis under medical supervision. We need to get cannabis deschedulized as a Schedule I illegal substance as soon as possible.
The Argument Against Reschedulization
There is also a current debate in the cannabis industry about whether to push for RESECHEDULIZATION of cannabis from a Schedule I to a Schedule II drug or to push for deschedulization altogether. My recommendation is for DESCHEDULIZATION.
Why? Reschedulization of cannabis as a Schedule II drug would put the cannabis industry under the microscope of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which would create a number of new hurdles for cannabis entrepreneurs to navigate.
Many smaller cannabis businesses simply would not have the resources to comply with all the new FDA regulations that would be required, and would most likely fall by the wayside. Only the major players would have the resources to remain in the game, and some may feel that the new FDA regulations that they would have to comply with would be too costly.
Reschedulization and Big Pharma
Reschedulization of cannabis as a Schedule II substance under the control of the FDA could also open the door to Big Pharma to enter the cannabis industry, which is something that I think would be disastrous to the industry.
The perceived negative effect of a Big Pharma entry into the cannabis industry is the subject of an entire book, but it’s clear to say that not only would the price of cannabis be effected by the entry of Big Pharma into the industry, but also most likely, product quality.
The solution in my opinion, is the deschedulization of cannabis as an illegal substance under federal law, as was done with alcohol and tobacco. These substances are no longer recognized as illegal under federal law, but are regulated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF).
Prior Legalization Efforts
Since the adoption of the Controlled Substances Act in 1970, there have been numerous attempts to change marijuana’s Schedule I classification at the federal level.
The first attempt occurred in 1972, when the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) petitioned the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous drugs to either remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act altogether or, in the alternative, to reclassify marijuana as a Schedule V drug. Courts have considered reclassification of marijuana six times.
In 1994, the Alliance for Cannabis Therapeutics filed suit against the DEA in an action that sought only to reduce marijuana’s classification from Schedule I to Schedule II. In that case the court used a five-part test to determine whether reclassification was appropriate:
- Whether the drug has a known and reproducible chemistry;
- Whether adequate safety studies were performed;
- If there were well-controlled and adequate studies showing marijuana’s efficacy;
- Whether marijuana was accepted by qualified experts; and
- Whether scientific evidence of marijuana’s efficacy was widely available.
The request for reschedulization was denied and, as in previous attempts to reclassify marijuana, the court refused the request for a scheduling change because, according to the five criteria, marijuana had “no accepted medical use.”
The court based this determination on the “testimony of numerous experts that marijuana’s medicinal value ha[d] never been proven in sound scientific studies.” The Administrator reasonably accorded more weight to the opinions of these experts than to the anecdotal testimony of laymen and doctors on which petitioners relied.
The Administrator noted that with one exception, none of [these doctors] could identify under oath the scientific studies they swore they relied on. Only one had enough knowledge to discuss the scientific technicalities involved. Eventually, each one admitted he was basing his opinion on anecdotal evidence, on stories he heard from patients, and on his impressions about the drug.”
Surely, in 2017 and beyond, the cannabis industry has the evidence to mount another attempt at deschedulization. And the deschedulizaton of cannabis should go hand in hand with federal legalization efforts.
It takes a proactive approach to convince the federal government to move forward. Remember—many members of Congress are beholden to Big Pharma, who has spent billions of dollars to stop the development of the cannabis legalization movement.
We have a tremendously steep uphill battle to fight, but we can’t allow that to discourage us. We must keep ourselves focused on the objective: federal legalization/deschedulization of cannabis.
And we must also stay focused on the steps we need to take to get there, including lobbying efforts, public relations and education efforts, and litigation.