Is the US getting closer to cannabis legalization?

Ashley Keenan
Kindling Cannabis News: is the US closer to legalising marijuana

This week, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) moved to reclassify cannabis as a less dangerous drug. The plan wouldn't legalize weed at the federal level outright but would recognize the medical use of cannabis with less potential for abuse than the nation’s more dangerous drugs. Right now, cannabis in America is a Schedule I drug, alongside heroin and LSD. The DEA has proposed marijuana become a Schedule III drug, among ketamine and anabolic steroids, which have less strict regulations.

Is it enough?

The proposal still needs to clear the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) before the next steps can occur. AP News reports that there is one last regulatory hurdle to clear before “the agency’s biggest policy change in more than 50 years can take effect.”Once OMB signs off, the DEA will take public comment on the plan to move cannabis to its new classification.


Cannabis still illegal at the federal level

NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano agrees that the move is significant, however, he cautions that moving cannabis to Schedule III isn’t enough progress for medical marijuana patients across the States. “The goal of any federal cannabis policy reform ought to be to address the existing, untenable divide between federal marijuana policy and the cannabis laws of the majority of US states,” he said. 

“Rescheduling the cannabis plant to Schedule III fails to adequately address this conflict, as existing state legalization laws — both adult use and medical — will continue to be in conflict with federal regulations, thereby perpetuating the existing divide between state and federal marijuana policies.”

While this isn’t the first time the DEA has put forward a proposal to reschedule cannabis, the Biden administration is aligned with the changes. Attorney General Merrick Garland’s signature comes with the full weight of the Justice Department and appears to signal its importance to the Biden administration. In October 2022 the President moved to pardon thousands of Americans convicted of possession. 

“Criminal records for marijuana use and possession have imposed needless barriers to employment, housing, and educational opportunities,” Biden said in December. “Too many lives have been upended because of our failed approach to marijuana. It’s time that we right these wrongs.”

Much like Canada, the U.S. has both federal and state laws, so while there are states that allow the sale of adult-use cannabis, there are no federal laws akin to The Cannabis Act that would govern legalization nationwide. With the upcoming election, analysts wonder if this will attract more young adults to vote than in previous years. 

Regardless, this move is a far cry from federal legalization. If approved, approximately 15,000 cannabis dispensaries in legalized states would need to register with the DEA and follow strict reporting requirements. No shade to our friends down South, but all this legalese just makes me more grateful for federally legal cannabis in Canada.

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