Have you ever forgotten to pay a bill on time? It’s the worst.
A billing schedule sets an interval (like a month, day, period). The Controlled Substances Act has set a schedule for US doctors, pharmacists, and citizens in the acceptable treatment for ailments and conditions.
What is the Controlled Substances Act?
The Controlled Substance Act, under the administrative authority of the FDA, is a two-prong piece of legislation:
- To regulate the manufacture and distribution of controlled substances
- Provide a classification schedule for known substances based on abuse potential, proven medical benefits, and status of international treaties.
While this system is meant to assist in the evaluation of a substance and whether it is safe for public consumption, the slow-moving bureaucracy that is idiosyncratic of government has yet to budge concerning cannabis.
With marijuana scheduled as Schedule I, indicating no approved medical use and high abuse potential, the ability to acquire federal approval to conduct research, design studies, and implement findings has been hoisted to a pursuit of nearly impenetrable resistance.
Was marijuana scheduled this way at a time when the US population viewed marijuana as harmful? Yes.
Has that changed? You tell me.
While rescheduling marijuana would provide much-needed access to research and funds, the rescheduling of marijuana cannot, itself, undo the magnifying effect on bad information, created in the half-century absence of scientific study and data that followed the passing of the Controlled Substances Act.
Rescheduling V Removal
So, the issue becomes: do we remove it from the controlled substances list or reschedule marijuana it so that it could be included in the existing medical structure?
While both ways of dealing with the current marijuana schedule are focused on eliminating barriers between the law of the land and personal choice, removing the substance entirely from the drug schedules carries with it a few effects on the industry that would not be present if/when rescheduling marijuana.
It is argued way the medical and recreational marijuana industry currently function, given the current marijuana schedule, that to fully remove cannabis from the controlled substances act is the best way to ensure a smooth transition with existing marijuana markets while eliminating barriers to research entirely.
In my mind, this would transition marijuana and related products into to same product category as “alternative medicine”. While the FDA is unlikely to recommend smoking your health products, the more relaxed oversight on alternative health products is a point of victory for many of us who yearn for a public opinion that embraces cannabis.
This has the potential to change how many of these businesses operate, affecting the entire business model particularly on the medical side of things. Marijuana and alcohol would be held essentially equivalent at this point, in regards to their position within society.
Often, groups have backed the rescheduling marijuana horse as it forces the government to formally acknowledge the medicinal benefits of cannabis. In renouncing the current marijuana schedule, moving it to any other schedule will perform wonders by way of reducing the barriers blocking independent research.
Rescheduling the substance would allow pharmaceutical companies to develop new cannabinoid medications, which could allow for greater populations to receive treatment and further remove patients from legal concerns. Similarly, this could allay some of the concerns in aging populations regarding the effects of marijuana.
What about the current cannabis ecosystem?
Let’s presume that rescheduling marijuana becomes a reality. Given that the FDA regulates all food and drugs and that the process of developing a medication treatment takes several years, testing and safety concerns notwithstanding.
What is something like that going to do to our existing medical marijuana system? Again, it seems unlikely that the FDA would suggest smoking a medicine, but if the marijuana schedule was changed, and they had millions of patients, it’d be cruel to turn them away.
Luckily for us, the long road that led marijuana from medical to recreational to (hopefully) rescheduling marijuana left some parting gifts in the form of the Cole & Ogden Memos.
The Cole & Ogden Memos give states the authority to approve and regulate marijuana sales, given they do not interfere with the Department of Justice, sell to minors, or involve themselves with cartels. In this series of memos, the US Supreme Court and the president defined an enforcement discretion’, or the ability to prioritize choices regarding the controlled substances act and marijuana.
While rescheduling marijuana is a priority, it is likely that not much would change immediate the decision. If the president did decide to persecute the marijuana industry, they would have to revoke the memos and significantly (and publicly) move to close the thousands of businesses, representing hundreds of thousands of jobs, representing millions in lost tax revenues.
C’mon, the government likes when it’s people are employed, engaged in their own life, and spending. People like it when they can get high. We’ve got a winning recipe. What’s the hold-up?