Officials with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) last week quietly released hundreds of pages of documents detailing the agency’s recommendation that cannabis be moved from Schedule I to Schedule III under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). The recommendations were released following a FOIA request to Texas-based attorney Matt Zorn of the On Drugs Substack, and Zorn promptly released the documents to the public on Saturday.
While the unredacted documents are not laden with new revelations, the release confirms reports from last year that federal scientists were recommending the shift to Schedule III and reveals the federal agency’s reasoning behind the change.
The 252-page document states that despite being the most commonly used illegal drug, cannabis “does not produce serious outcomes compared to drugs in Schedules I or II” and, in fact, “the vast majority of individuals who use marijuana are doing so in a manner that does not lead to dangerous outcomes to themselves or others.”
Additionally, officials highlighted findings that cannabis could carry significant medicinal benefits — this directly contrasts the plant’s current Schedule I classification, which is reserved for “drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” While the plant was found to carry some risk of physical dependence, HHS noted that the risk of serious outcomes is low.
HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra told the New York Times that his department has been coordinating with DEA about the potential for rescheduling cannabis and had “communicated to them our position.”
After news of the Schedule III recommendation broke last year, a group of Republican lawmakers urged the DEA Administrator Anne Milgram in a letter to reject the recommendation. DEA would later assert to Congress in a letter revealed early this year that the agency has the “final authority” on any decision regarding the status of cannabis under the Controlled Substances Act.
In terms of the industry, it’s not completely clear what a Schedule III reclassification would bring but cannabis entrepreneurs, scientists, and lobbyists believe it would at the very least relax restrictions on cannabis medicine, research, and banking.
“The importance of a federal agency publicly acknowledging that cannabis is inappropriately classified as a Schedule I substance and has accepted medical use cannot be overstated,” said Saphira Galoob, Executive Director of the National Cannabis Roundtable, in a press release. (Full Story)