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Analysis

Feds Set to Reclassify Marijuana

Feds Set to Reclassify Marijuana

By Vince Conti

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The U.S. Department of Justice has recommended that the Drug Enforcement Administration reclassify marijuana from a Schedule I drug to a Schedule III. The reclassification would not legalize marijuana under federal law, but it would recognize the potential medical value of the drug and remove it from proximity with the Schedule I drugs like heroin, ecstasy and LSD.

Schedule I drugs in the federal system are those substances which the federal government asserts have no medical use. They are considered the substances with the highest potential for abuse.

Schedule III drugs are seen as having a moderate to low potential for physical or psychological dependence, along with a lower risk of abuse. They have recognized medical uses. Examples are prescription drugs like anabolic steroids and testosterone.

Many who praise the move also caution that it does not go far enough. They argue that marijuana should be declassified completely, becoming more like alcohol or tobacco.

Senate Democrats have responded to the public call for decriminalization of marijuana at the federal level. A bill was introduced just one day after the announcement that the DEA is seeking to downgrade the control substance status of cannabis.

The Democratic bill would end the federal prohibition of cannabis by completely removing the drug from the controlled substance list. It would also establish a framework for how cannabis would be regulated once decriminalized and set up ways for taxing the emerging cannabis industry.

It is unlikely that the Senate bill will move in an election year where the Republicans control the House of Representatives and have voiced opposition to decriminalization.

The DEA rescheduling process has a good chance of success but could still take months. The White House Office of Management and Budget must review the proposal. If that hurdle is cleared, the proposed rescheduling would be formally published with the public being given ample time for comment.

The news comes as some Cape May County municipalities are moving cautiously with adult-use retail cannabis stores.

Middle Township’s cannabis ordinance would allow two such retail establishments within the township, but Mayor Chris Leusner, formerly chief of police for 13 years, says the township will not support a second retailer until there is an opportunity to see the impact from the INSA store to open soon at the Route 9 and Avalon Boulevard intersection.

West Cape May recently limited the number of cannabis retail establishments to one after agreeing in 2022 that the borough would allow two recreational cannabis stores. The borough has one operational retail cannabis shop on Sunset Boulevard.

Contact the reporter, Vince Conti, at vconti@cmcherald.com.

Reporter

Vince Conti is a reporter for the Cape May County Herald.

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