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Will the proposed rescheduling of marijuana affect its legality? 

On Behalf of | May 14, 2024 | Drug Charges

Our readers may have heard the news that it finally appears that efforts to move marijuana from a Schedule I drug to Schedule III may finally be successful. At the urging of the White House, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has announced a proposal to reschedule the drug. 

Advocates for reform have long argued that it doesn’t belong in Schedule I with drugs like heroin, LSD and ecstasy. Moving it to Schedule III would put it in the same category as acetaminophen with codeine, ketamine and anabolic steroids, which have recognized medical uses – as marijuana does.

The federal legality of marijuana

Many people assume this will make its possession and use legal under federal law. Despite changes in the laws of multiple states, including Maryland, that have legalized it for recreational in addition to medical purposes, it’s still illegal under federal law. 

The rescheduling, if it’s approved, wouldn’t change that. Making it a Schedule III drug wouldn’t affect state laws around recreational marijuana. It would remain legal where it is and illegal where it isn’t. Even Schedule III drugs are considered controlled substances. It may be able to be prescribed, as other Schedule III drugs can be, however.

What would change?

Where a rescheduling will likely make a difference is for those who use it for clinical studies as well as for how it’s taxed federally for cannabis businesses. However, it wouldn’t change the restrictions that keep these businesses from using the banking system. An official with the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), said that reclassifying marijuana is just “perpetuating the existing divide between state and federal marijuana policies.” 

Another cannabis business association official says the change only “re-brands prohibition” and leaves the drug “in this kind of amorphous, mucky middle where people are not going to understand the danger of it still being federally illegal.” While federal prosecutions around the drug are rare these days, it’s agreed that they more significantly affect people of color. 

The proposal still has some layers of federal bureaucracy to pass through before any final approval.  What’s crucial to remember, however, is that the rescheduling will have no effect on federal laws around marijuana possession nor will it change the state laws here in Maryland and throughout the country. If you’re facing a marijuana or any drug-related charge, it’s smart to have experienced legal guidance to protect your rights.