The 2017 Push to Reschedule Cannabis and Legalize CBD Has Begun
2016 was a very big year for cannabis. When the dust settled on the 2016 election, four states had voted to legalize cannabis for adult use and three more states had voted to legalize medical cannabis. Montana also voted to restore its medical cannabis program.
This year is off to a great start at the state level with cannabis reform seeming to be one of the most popular public policy topics in state legislatures.
At the federal level there is much more uncertainty which has created a lot of anxiety in the cannabis community. President Trump has made comments in the past both for and against cannabis reform, so it is hard to know what he would do.
The Rohrbacher-Farr amendment which protects legal medical states from federal enforcement is still in effect, but only for a couple more months. If the Trump Administration wanted to ramp up enforcement in legal states, there wouldn't be much to stop them.
Fortunately for cannabis consumers and industry members, two bills were recently introduced which would help improve things, and not just in legal states.
The Compassionate Access Act
Congressman Morgan Griffith (R-VA) and Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) recently re-introduced the Compassionate Access Act which would reschedule cannabis and completely remove the prohibition of cannabidiol (CBD).
Recently the federal government announced that it was creating a new tax code specific to CBD. That led to quite a bit of media coverage stating that the federal government had just then made CBD Schedule I.
However, CBD is part of the cannabis plant, and all parts of the cannabis plant are considered to be Schedule I according to the federal government. The CBD tax code has proven to be a bookkeeping tool more than anything.
That's not to say that CBD derived from hemp is illegal. A 2014 federal farming bill made an exception from federal prohibition for hemp in states where pilot programs have been created. Those types of products are legal, albeit still considered to be a Schedule I substance.
The newly introduced Compassionate Access Act would end CBD prohibition altogether by exempting CBD from the federal definition for cannabis.
The bill calls for moving cannabis from Schedule I to something else, but doesn't propose what that is. In theory it could be Schedule II or hopefully even better.
A general consensus exists in veteran activism circles that moving cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule II would not make much of an impact. A move to Schedule III would be considerably better.
The Legitimate Use of Medicinal Marijuana Act
The Legitimate Use of Medicinal Marijuana Act is more specific in that it calls for moving cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule II.
Congressman Morgan Griffith (R-VA) sponsored this bill as well. The bill would also create the same protections as the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, but permanently versus requiring re-approval.
This bill does not go as far as the Compassionate Access Act, but it's an undeniable improvement over full prohibition.
With both chambers of Congress being controlled by the Republican party, this bill may prove to be the more palatable piece of legislation even if it's not preferred by cannabis advocates.
What would it take to reschedule/deschedule cannabis?
Cannabis can be rescheduled or descheduled one of three ways. Many people think that there are only two ways (Congress does it, or the President does it), but there are actually three.
One way to do it is by petitioning the DEA. That route has been attempted multiple times over the years, with the effort being unsuccessful each time. The most recent denial came last year.
The second route would be via the White House. The President has the power to call for cannabis recheduling or descheduling, although it's worth noting that it would require a tremendous amount of hoop jumping.
For an amazing breakdown of the bureaucratic hoops that the President would have to jump though in order to successfully reschedule/deschedule cannabis, check out a video that the Brookings Institution put out (start at 6:37).
The easiest way to reschedule or deschedule cannabis would be via Congressional action. If Congress were to pass a bill calling for descheduling or rescheduling, it would go to the President's desk for a signature and it would be done.
It's tough to say if one of the two recently introduced bills will get that far, or for that matter what the Trump administration would do if such a bill came across Trump's desk.
However, the need to change cannabis' federal classification is great. Research, banking, industry taxes, and many other things are hampered by cannabis being a Schedule I substance.
Now is the time to contact your federal politicians and urge them to support these two bills. Demand that they push for a vote and to get as many of their peers on board as possible. The future of cannabis depends on it.
Congressman Rohrabacher introduces the 'Respect State Marijuana Laws Act'
Congressman Dana Rohrabacher has long been a champion for cannabis. The bill that he co-sponsored has protected people from federal prosecution because they were committing acts that were legal in their state.
But as I touched on earlier in this article, those protections are set to expire in a couple of months. Also, they do not apply to adult-use cannabis in states that allow it.
Improving on his previous legislation, Dana Rohrabacher has introduced a new bill, the 'Respect State Marijuana Laws Act' which would extend the current protections for medical cannabis to adult-use cannabis as well.
The bill would make cannabis a states' rights issue, as it should have been all along. Unlike an amendment which expires, this bill, if passed, would become law permanently.
As I said previously, this is going to be a tough Congress to get cannabis reform passed in just about any form, but it's still possible so make sure to contact your federal politicians and make your voice heard!
If you want to learn or educate others about how cannabis actually works, be sure to check the free Cannabis as Medicine video trilogy, availabe on Green Flower for a limited time.
Do you think that cannabis should be rescheduled, or descheduled?