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The Benefits of Drug Designations

This past August, the Department of Health and Human Services recommended that marijuana be stripped of its classification as a Schedule I drug, and reclassified as a Schedule III drug. Many have longed for this adjustment in the hopes that it would lead to more research of the health benefits of cannabis, as well as easing the restriction on sales. But how far would this adjustment go?

The Controlled Substance Act regulates and sorts drugs into five “schedules,” based on medicinal benefits and potential for abuse. A Schedule I designation means that the federal government believes that there are no medicinal benefits of the drug, and a high potential for abuse. It also means cultivation and possession are outlawed except for research, and any research conducted of the drug must be approved prior to any studies. A Schedule III designation means that the drug has low to moderate potential for abuse.

This may seem like a huge win for the cannabis industry, which at first glance, it is. However, there are a few caveats. Federal officials have argued that due to international treaties to fight drug trafficking, they are obligated to keep marijuana as a Schedule I or II drug. The rescheduling would still have some difficulty on the research side due to it not being classified as recreational. This means that testing on the products in the market, such as vapes, edibles, and concentrates, would go unstudied. It may also cause the product to be more difficult to purchase recreationally as it would be seen more as medicine.

While the reclassification would be a step forward, if for nothing else than showing movement away from grouping cannabis with other harmful, addictive drugs, it will not have the effect many wish it would. This will only occur when marijuana is removed from the scheduling system entirely, putting it on the same level as tobacco and alcohol, and eventually legalized on the federal level.

By Stephen Freedman

Stephen Freedman is the Regional Manager of the ERBA Markets, the WOODS, West LA, Venice, South Bay, and WeHo.

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