A number of bills are pending Congress that would reform marijuana law. The latest is an attempt to reclassify cannabis as Schedule III, in the same category as medications like Tylenol with codeine, ketamine, and dronabinol, a synthetic cannabinoid medication.
Currently, under the Controlled Substances Act, cannabis falls into Schedule I, alongside substances like heroin and LSD. For context, meth and cocaine are categorized as Schedule II. Meanwhile, the DEA describes Schedule II drugs as those that have “a potential for abuse less than substances in Schedules I or II and abuse may lead to moderate or low physical dependence or high psychological dependence.”
The marijuana rescheduling bill, House Bill 2020, was introduced on Thursday by Congressmen Matt Gaetz (R-Florida) and Darren Soto (D-Florida). If passed, it would alleviate tensions between state medical marijuana law and federal prohibition, allow medical cannabis businesses to use federally funded banks (currently they’re barred from most banks and operate all in cash), and open up opportunities for research. The bill would not have any impact on state-by-state adult use cannabis policies.
“It’s a modest step forward to try to find the most possible common ground,” says Gaetz. “I have supported cannabis reform as a state legislator, and I want to see the people that I fought for in my state have access to legal, high-quality product that’s been well-researched.”
Gaetz adds that the bill could impact the country’s opioid crisis. Reforming medical marijuana laws could help curb the dependence on opiate painkiller prescriptions.
However, while rescheduling would definitely be a step in a more progressive direction, marijuana law reform activists tend to advocate for descheduling cannabis altogether. Rescheduling still tethers states to the federal government, rather than allowing them to work out their cannabis laws on their own, without federal interference. Only descheduling would truly loosen the grasp of federal prohibition, allowing states to regulate cannabis like alcohol or tobacco.