DEA’s Cannabis Classification: Time To Right A Decades-old Mistake As Feds Confirm Marijuana’s Medical Benefits

Schedule I drugs are defined by the DEA as substances with no “currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” The list includes heroin, LSD, ecstasy, meth, peyote, and, for the past 24 years, cannabis.

With Friday’s release of documents related to the Department of Health and Human Service’s (HHS) review of cannabis, federal researchers found that cannabis indeed “has a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States” and that its “potential for abuse less than the drugs or other substances in Schedules I and II.” Hence, the HHS made a recommendation to the DEA to remove cannabis from its onerous Schedule I status.

HHS officials found that more than 30,000 healthcare professionals “across 43 U.S. jurisdictions are authorized to recommend the medical use of marijuana for more than six million registered patients for at least 15 medical conditions.”

In terms of medical conditions for which cannabis is often cited to help, the review “identified mixed findings of effectiveness across indications, ranging from data showing inconclusive findings to considerable evidence in favor of effectiveness, depending on the source.”

What Did They Find?

Conditions such as pain and, in particular, neuropathic pain presented the “largest evidence base for effectiveness.”

The review also said there is scientific support for the therapeutic benefits of cannabis, including for treating anorexia, pain, nausea and vomiting related to chemotherapy.

The document also noted, “For overdose deaths, marijuana is always in the lowest ranking among comparator drugs.”

What’s Next For The Cannabis Industry?

Though a final DEA decision could take months, advocates and cannabis companies are optimistic about the prospect of rescheduled cannabis.

“The move to Schedule III, if adopted by the DEA, will have sweeping impacts on U.S. cannabis policy and the U.S. cannabis marketplace,” Brady Cobb, a D.C. lobbyist and CEO of Sunburn Cannabis told Benzinga. “From tax reform to criminal justice to accessibility to interstate commerce, this move would mark the true start of our legalization moment and I am proud to be a part of it along with so many others.”

If or when cannabis is rescheduled, Section 280(e) of the IRS tax code would no longer apply to cannabis businesses, allowing operators to deduct ordinary business expenses from their gross income, which they’ve not been able to do all these years.

Matt Darin, CEO of Curaleaf Holdings, also expressed optimism. “For the first time in history, we’re seeing federal health officials acknowledging the medical potential of cannabis. With the release of these documents, we are very optimistic that the move to reschedule is imminent.”

Photo: Benzinga edit of photo by Shutterstock

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