Within the arena of cannabis, there are a variety of words some insiders often throw around that the average consumer might not understand. When I talk to other writers or professionals in the industry, they know all about rescheduling and what that might mean for the cannabis scene. When I talk to my dad who is visiting out of state, he has some idea, but not much concern for it. When I talk to my friend who home grows, he did not have much of a clue about it.
That is the problem with our industry and culture. Cannabis has sometimes created an internal environment where some people are in the know, and others are not, and the effects can be a group of people who are well educated about issues with others not caring. Some would even argue that it is okay because not every cannabis user needs to be a political activist, they should simply be allowed just to enjoy the plant they are smoking.
Anyone who has read our articles in the past will understand when we talk about how much we believe the exact opposite, that we often will advocate for the need of including some form of advocacy in cannabis and that we firmly believe if you care enough to frequently smoke the plant, you should also care enough to do things like vote on issues regarding the flower. This is especially true and important when considering how cannabis is still illegal across the country and how much can be done for the flower.
One of the things that will eventually need to be approached is the valid concern of whether or not cannabis is rescheduled. For some of us, we know what this means, for others, that might not be the case, so here is a crash course.
What Is Scheduling?
Scheduling is a federal policy that emerged with the creation of the Drug Enforcement Agency. When the government decided it was time to begin controlling substances, they figured it was important to put in place a variety of policies that would regulate who could access what, when certain substances could be used in research, and perhaps most importantly, what are the punishments when someone abuses the laws of possessing a certain substance.
Scheduling helped create many of the laws around drugs with the lower scheduled substances being viewed in less harsh a light than the higher scheduled substances. For example, Class 1 substances, which include marijuana, are considered to have no “medical purpose” and are often considered the most addictive. These substances often face large prison sentences and in many states, can lead to three strike rules leading to lifetime imprisonment. Class 5 substances, on the other hand, are hardly illegal, but regulated. These substances have practical medical purposes and can be sold in controlled amounts.
Scheduling has shaped most policy on drugs for the better part of the century.
Confused about why marijuana is a Class 1 substance? Yeah, most people are. The reason for this is because really, the DEA needed something they could vilify and, in truth, produce revenue to survive. Thus, marijuana was made into a scapegoat and placed in this high category. This brings us to the next point.
What Is Rescheduling?
When the drugs were scheduled, there were policies put in place allowing their status to change. The government was smart enough to recognize research might change how we view things and with any system, put in place provisions about what might be allowed to change over time.
Rescheduling, although the official term is still mostly just scheduling, allows drugs to move up and down the schedules for the benefit of all. The DEA ultimately determines when a substance can be scheduled into a different category (or if new substances emerge, are responsible for scheduling these substances.) This process involves a petition being put in from outside the DEA and reviewed for its validity. With the federal government now officially recognizing that cannabis has a valid medical application (these being seen on government funded websites talking about treatment of cancer through the application of cannabis) it would seem the government is contradicting itself.
And it very much is. The federal government allowing cannabis to be researched and admitting it can help in managing the pain from cancer directly shows it should not be a Schedule 1 substance. But as we all know, red tape is not so easily cut and it will be some time before the government might move into a place where their policies align. It seems likely that cannabis will be rescheduled, but for now, we are entirely unsure of when this will happen.
What Happens Next?
As mentioned above, cannabis is now in a contradictory place. There is an issue where the federal government has recognized that cannabis has legitimate medical value, but at the same time, still schedules it as a substance they claim has no value. Confused? We are too.
So what comes next? Well, most people are predicting that cannabis will soon be reclassified, and the government must address these discrepancies between the two places.
Right now, it is looking like things might change, and very soon. The DEA published a memo in April where they discussed their intent to release findings on rescheduling within the first half of 2016. Truly, this doesn’t mean much, but at least it’s a commitment to reveal more of what’s to come for the remainder of the year.
Most would predict this memo means that the DEA will reschedule. Others might not be as hopeful because, although a memo has emerged, this does not mean a commitment from the DEA. And with a notoriously backward view on cannabis, it will be curious to see what happens when the DEA releases their findings.
If cannabis is not rescheduled, it really won’t mean much, to be honest. Cannabis is already existing and somewhat thriving in legal industries across the country in states which have allowed this to happen. If it were to be rescheduled at a lower level, however, it would have profound implications. Cannabis getting scheduled at a lower level means even state governments will have a harder time fighting it, and the federal government would be more lax. Additionally, it would change how policies are applied in the form of punishment. This would be the biggest win.
For now, who knows what happens next. We will see what the DEA releases, including what might come next, but hopefully, it will be positive. Keep your ears open because if the DEA moves cannabis to a lower class of substance, this is celebration worthy indeed.