Despite the growing acceptance and legalization of cannabis in many states, it remains a Schedule I drug at the federal level. This means that in the eyes of the government, it is considered to have no medical benefit and a high potential for abuse, placing it alongside substances like heroin and LSD. However, there are efforts being made to change this classification, from rescheduling to descheduling instead.
Recently, two advocacy groups, the Marijuana Justice Coalition and the Cannabis Freedom Alliance, joined forces to urge President Biden to fully deschedule cannabis instead of rescheduling it as his administration currently plans. These groups believe that rescheduling is not enough and are pushing for more comprehensive reform.
The Marijuana Justice Coalition, founded in 2018, is made up of various organizations focused on drug policy, civil rights, criminal justice, immigration, and those directly impacted by cannabis criminalization. Their goal is to pass federal marijuana reform that addresses the disproportionate harm faced by Black, brown, and low-income communities and works toward repairing this harm.
The Cannabis Freedom Alliance (CFA) also seeks to end cannabis prohibition and criminalization in the US. However, their focus is on promoting a free market and reducing barriers to innovation and entrepreneurship in the cannabis industry.
Recommendation from U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
The current Schedule I status of cannabis means that it is deemed to have no medical benefit and a high potential for abuse. This classification has significant implications, including limiting research opportunities and hindering the development of medical treatments using cannabis.
In response to growing interest in the medical benefits of cannabis, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) conducted a scientific review of its current classification.
In April, the HHS recommended that cannabis be rescheduled to Schedule III, which would recognize its potential for medical use but still subject it to federal regulation and restrictions.
While this recommendation was seen as a step forward by some, many advocacy groups like the Marijuana Justice Coalition and Cannabis Freedom Alliance believe it is not enough. Rescheduling would still leave cannabis under federal control and subject to restrictions that hinder its potential for use in medical treatments. The joint letter from the two coalitions states, “Now is the time to end federal marijuana criminalization, Mr. President, not to rebrand it..”
The HHS’s recommendation also fails to address social justice issues surrounding cannabis criminalization. It does not offer any relief to those currently incarcerated for cannabis offenses or address the disproportionate impact on communities of color. The joint letter argues that only full descheduling can truly address these issues and bring about comprehensive reform.
The Call for Full Descheduling
The Marijuana Justice Coalition and Cannabis Freedom Alliance’s joint letter to President Biden emphasize the importance of fully descheduling cannabis instead of just rescheduling it. This means removing it from the list of controlled substances altogether, treating it similarly to alcohol and tobacco.
Their reasoning for this call is clear – rescheduling would still leave cannabis under federal control and subject to regulations and restrictions. In their letter, the two coalitions state that rescheduling “Any action to move marijuana to another CSA schedule rather than removing it would simply
maintain federal criminalization of these programs.”
One major reason for advocating for full descheduling is the impact on criminalization and incarceration rates. Cannabis possession remains one of the most common reasons for arrest in the US, with people of color being disproportionately affected. Removing cannabis from the controlled substances list would eliminate this risk and help reduce the number of non-violent drug offenders in prisons.
Additionally, full descheduling would open up more opportunities for employment, education, and housing for individuals with past cannabis convictions.
Currently, many employers, schools, and landlords use federal law as justification to deny these opportunities to those with cannabis-related offenses on their record. Descheduling would remove this barrier and allow individuals to move forward without the constant stigma and consequences of past convictions.
Moreover, full descheduling would also open up access to other resources that are currently restricted due to federal control. For example, businesses in the cannabis industry face difficulties in obtaining basic banking services due to federal regulations. By removing cannabis from the controlled substances list, these businesses would have access to banking and other financial services like any other legitimate business.
Overall, its a step in the right direction when so many advocacy groups are joining forces and calling for full descheduling of cannabis as a necessary step towards ending prohibition and achieving comprehensive reform.
This includes addressing criminalization and incarceration rates, barriers to employment and education for individuals with past convictions, and restrictions on research and resources due to federal control.
The recent recommendation from the HHS to reschedule cannabis falls short of these goals, leading to continued criticisms and calls for bold action from the Biden administration. It is crucial for the future of cannabis reform that this promise is fulfilled and full descheduling is achieved.
The impact of this change would be far-reaching, positively affecting individuals and communities on multiple levels. By removing cannabis from the controlled substances list, we can begin to address social justice issues, promote medical research and treatments, and allow for fair access to resources and opportunities in the cannabis industry.
It is time to recognize that rescheduling is not enough – full descheduling of cannabis is necessary for true reform.
Let’s continue to advocate for this change and create a future where individuals are no longer held back by the stigma of past convictions or federal restrictions on a plant with immense potential for good.
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