This week, President Biden pardoned all people convicted in federal court for marijuana possession. It was a big moment for marijuana proponents, one that suggests that the Biden administration is reconsidering the government’s stance on the drug.
What happens if marijuana were to be descheduled? This process is not clear and would have some variability from state to state. Reuters provided a thorough breakdown of how this would look, and how it could challenge existing marijuana medical and recreational programs.
Marijuana is a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act, meaning that it’s under the strictest laws, putting it in the same category as substances like heroin. This prevents marijuana from being thoroughly researched, a hindrance for learning its medicinal properties. If the drug were to be rescheduled, say, becoming a Schedule II or a Schedule V drug, it would still be regulated.
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In the case of the former, marijuana would be treated like opioids, requiring prescriptions for its use. In the latter, it would be treated like cough syrup and other drugs, monitored by drug stores on a minimal level.
When it comes to states with legal medical marijuana, where doctors are allowed to recommend the drug to their patients, there would also be a change. If marijuana were to be rescheduled, doctors would be able to prescribe the drug, and the drug would have to pass FDA regulation, like all other medications.
“Big Pharma might be the big exciting player here, because they have the most to gain if we were to reschedule but it was still something that was very highly regulated,” said Ohio State professor Douglas Berman.
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When talking about states that have legal recreational marijuana programs, things wouldn’t change much unless the drug were to be removed from the scheduling process completely. While unlikely, if this were to happen, the government could put taxes on the drug or add warning labels as they’ve done with tobacco.
Biden’s pardon is by far his administration’s biggest decision regarding cannabis and is the first major step in decriminalizing it. Those that are qualified for the pardon will receive a certificate that shows they’ve been forgiven for their crime.