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Introduction to drug scheduling in the US
Did you know that in the US, drugs and other chemicals are classified into 5 distinct categories depending on the drug’s acceptable medical use and its potential for abuse or dependency? Drugs federally classified as Schedule I substances by the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) are considered to have the highest potential for abuse and for creating severe psychological and/or physical dependence. In addition to heroin, LSD and MDMA (ecstasy), cannabis is classified as a Schedule I substance in the Controlled Substance Act of 1970, which means it has no approved medical usage.
Let’s take a look at the movement to remove cannabis from its Schedule I classification at the federal level.
The movement to reclassify cannabis
In 2019, a bill was introduced to remove cannabis from the DEA’s Schedule I classification. While this bill cleared the US House of Representatives, it stalled in the GOP-controlled US Senate. In May 2021, a new bill was proposed by 2 GOP members of congress to legalize marijuana at the federal level and protect banks that service state-level cannabis businesses. By reclassifying cannabis as a Schedule III substance, the new bill would make scientific research easier, would allow the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to take control of consumer protection and normalize testing requirements and would enable the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau to help regulate cannabis nationally. The bill would not preempt the laws of any states where marijuana is not legalized, however.
The Delta-8 controversy and the emerging fight for federal legalization
The explosion in popularity of Delta-8 THC across the US, particularly in states where recreational marijuana remains illegal, is a notable trend. While Delta-8 buds look, smell and even taste like traditional psychoactive Delta-9 marijuana, Delta-8 is legal to buy and consume.1 Delta-8 provides the same psychoactive, mind-altering effects as Delta-9 marijuana, but it is currently unregulated, which means consumers can buy it as a legal alternative to marijuana. With signs that Delta-8 could take a bite out of the popularity of other products, such as CBD and nicotine vaping, a number of states have decided to ban it, which could become a turning point for marijuana legalization in the US. The question is, will Delta-8 make it into the fight for federal legalization of marijuana, or will it languish as a legal alternative for recreational users? It will be interesting to see the outcomes of the controversy. Stay tuned for more on this topic.
DISCLAIMER: THIS IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE LEGAL ADVICE.
1. United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Drug Scheduling. https://www.dea.gov/drug-information/drug-scheduling
2. Alcohol Policy Information System (APIS). https://alcoholpolicy.niaaa.nih.gov/about-cannabis-policy
3. McDermott, T. Congress Keeps Taking Baby Steps on Marijuana Reform. JDSupra, May 27, 2021. https://www.jdsupra.com/legalnews/congress-keeps-taking-baby-steps-on-8779251/
4. Jaeger, K. Congressman Files First Federal Marijuana Reform Bill Of 2021. Marijuana Moment, January 21, 2021. https://www.marijuanamoment.net/congressman-files-first-federal-marijuana-reform-bill-of-2021/
5. Lessner, J. The Controversy Behind Delta-8 THC And Why Shoppers Are Buying It Up. mitú, April 20, 2021. https://wearemitu.com/wearemitu/things-that-matter/delta-8-thc-guide/
6. Yakowicz, W. Delta-8 THC Offers A Legal High, But Here’s Why The Booming Business May Soon Go Up In Smoke. Forbes, March 12, 2021. https://www.forbes.com/sites/willyakowicz/2021/03/12/delta-8-thc-offers-a-legal-high-but-heres-why-the-booming-business-may-soon-go-up-in-smoke/?sh=2a559ac95b3d
7. Ledger, E. US States Begin to Implement Bans on Delta-8 THC Cannabinoid. Canex, April 27, 2021. https://canex.co.uk/us-states-begin-to-implement-bans-on-delta-8-thc-cannabinoid/