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Rescheduling Cannabis to Schedule III Recommended by US Department of Health and Human Services

August 31, 2023

The rescheduling of cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule III has been advocated by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), according to a memo obtained by Bloomberg. The recommendation comes roughly 10 months after President Biden called on the HHS and the Attorney General to start the administrative process to review how cannabis is scheduled under federal law.

The reaction to the HHS memo has been mixed amongst cannabis advocates as Dasheeda Dawson, the Founding Director of Cannabis NYC said, “I'm not getting excited about the US HHS recommending to reschedule cannabis (D[elta]9-THC) 25 years after they got a patent for the medicinal benefits of cannabinoids. Rescheduling is not for the plant or the people. Deschedule or do nothing.”

The potential benefits of a move to Schedule III are highlighted in a LinkedIn post by Karen Jaynes, MS, who currently serves as an advisor for the Council for Federal Cannabis Regulation. The post highlights the potential benefits for medical cannabis patients that include insurance coverage for medical cannabis, job protections, housing protections, and others. The post does pose these potential benefits as questions as the move to Schedule III would place cannabis in the same category as suboxone, which the post notes has come with significant issues in patient care and rights.

Cannabis is currently listed as a Schedule I drug with the definition of having no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse alongside heroin, LSD, ecstasy, methaqualone, and peyote. The recommendation to move to Schedule III would place cannabis alongside drugs like suboxone, codeine, ketamine, anabolic steroids, and testosterone. Schedule III drugs are defined as having a moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence. To see the full list of the five scheduling categories and their definitions see the DEA website.