Increasing statewide cannabis legalization is removing marijuana-related stigmas. But the federal government still sees it as illegal. According to cannabis scheduling, it is a Schedule 1 drug meaning it has little to no medical benefits and a high potential for addiction. It is in the same category as harder drugs like heroin.
There have been many efforts to reschedule and possibly de-schedule cannabis so it would not be considered a hard drug. Doing so would allow private companies to develop their formulations of cannabis products and test them in FDA-controlled trials. It may also ease regulations for other types of marijuana-related clinical trials.
Efforts for cannabis scheduling have been ongoing. Now officials reveal that the feds aim to finish the review this year. Read on to find the latest updates.
Updates on Cannabis Scheduling
Secretary Xavier Becerra revealed in a press conference that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is hoping to present a cannabis scheduling decision to President Joe Biden this year. He reports that agencies have been working “as quickly as we can”.
While federal officials have stated they are working “expeditiously” to complete the cannabis review, which was ordered by the president late last year, they have not been specific about the timeline. The recent update that sets the scheduling deadline for this year provides a more definite outcome.
Cannabis Scheduling: What’s Being Done
The Food and Drug Administration is working on cannabis scheduling efforts by carrying out an eight-step scientific review on it to determine if and how it should be rescheduled.
“What I can tell you is that the president instructed us at HHS- FDA in particular, to take a look at how we treat marijuana to see if we can update our review of marijuana as a drug and how we can make sure how we treat it going forward on a federal level,” Becerra stated. “Places like California already changed the laws, the federal government has not, and so we’ve been instructed and we’re underway with that review as we speak.”
He said that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and other agencies are, “working together to try to see if we can give the president an answer that’s based on the science and the evidence. Stay tuned. We hope to be able to get there pretty soon- hopefully this year.”
While the deadline is not definitive, it’s the clearest timetable the feds have provided. It also offers insight into what is doable within the next six months.
What Needs to Be Done
Cannabis scheduling is a complicated process, and the feds will have several hoops to deal with before any decision is finalized. For example, once the HHS review is finalized, it will need to send a scheduling recommendation to the DEA. The agency oversees the final decision and could disagree with the results.
Justin Strekal, founder of cannabis reform group BOWL PAC states, “For the Biden Administration to accomplish its stated goals- ranging from restoring the integrity of the law, addressing racial equity, and a laundry list of other priorities- the de-scheduling of marijuana must be central.
“There are very few issues as deeply ingrained to the self-inflicted problems we as a nation face like prohibition, and Secretary Becerra, Attorney General Garland, and President Biden have a unique opportunity to bring fairness and sanity by addressing this correctly and quickly.”
Becerra also refers to the difficult road ahead, stating, “It’s got to go through several hoops, and again, safety and efficacy are what will drive this determination, so stay tuned.”
Pushes for Marijuana Scheduling
Many politicians and lawmakers are pushing for the completion of the cannabis scheduling review. Congressional Cannabis Caucus Co-Chair Barbara Lee (D-CA) and members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus have joined with advocates to push the Biden administration forward in the review process. Meanwhile, other legislators are working on related measures like marijuana banking reform.
In March, over a dozen bipartisan congressional lawmakers partnered to write a letter to Becerra and U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland calling for transparency in the review measures.
The letter stated that the president’s scheduling measures represent “an opportunity to make an honest assessment of the origins and implications of federal policy.” It added that “marijuana was scheduled based on stigma, not science” and that it’s “time to address marijuana’s existing reality as a state-regulated substance”.
Garland also said that the DOJ is “still working on a marijuana policy” while they wait for the results of health agencies’ cannabis scheduling review.
Update on Psychedelics
During the press conference, Becerra was also asked for an update on psychedelics reform. Lately, there has been a movement to legalize psychedelics due to the potential to yield health benefits.
Becerra reported he would need to defer to the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s (NIDA) expertise “because I want to make sure that I touch base with what they’ve been doing on that.”
He followed up saying, “But as I said, we are working to try to get out there as quickly as we can on marijuana.”
De-scheduling or rescheduling marijuana would create opportunities for the companies that sell it. It would make research easier to carry out.
The government has been focusing on cannabis scheduling for some time. The latest news shows they may have an answer by the end of the year. Hopefully, their decision will be favorable to businesses, individuals, and researchers alike.