DEA Props Up Outdated Cannabis Policy with Rescheduling Scheme

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Despite concerns about a pharmaceutical entity grabbing control of the cannabidiol (CBD) market, many legalization activists thrilled at the announcement that Epidiolex received approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) back in June. It was reasonable to hope that the approval of a cannabis-based drug for use in treating serious medical conditions would soon result in the rescheduling or descheduling of cannabis and its major constituent compounds, including CBD. Unfortunately, the DEA has found yet another way to continue its futile War on Drugs while avoiding conflict with the FDA’s approval of Epidiolex.

On Friday, September 28th, the DEA announced its intent to reschedule CBD in FDA-approved drugs to Schedule V. Almost instantly, cannabis activist and entrepreneurs were crowing from the rooftops that the War was effectively over., but that celebration was preemptive.

That reaction belies a lack of understanding about the drug approval process and the government’s commitment to the failed War on Drugs. The most important part of the rescheduling language is the fact that it only applies to CBD that exists in drugs approved by the FDA. CBD in its natural state or in products not approved by the FDA remains a Schedule I substance under federal law. Also important is the fact that any product with more than 0.1 percent THC is not included in this rescheduling effort.

In other words, the DEA acknowledges that CBD has medical benefits but refuses to remove cannabis and CBD from its Schedule I classification. While there is the potential for progress in the future on this front, many people across the nation experienced extreme disappointment at the announcement that only CBD included in FDA-approved medications has been rescheduled.

Those who grow high CBD strains of cannabis, as well as those who market, ship, transport, or use CBD products other than Epidiolex, can still end up arrested and prosecuted under federal and state cannabis laws. As more states continue to move toward adult recreational legalization, the anti-cannabis infrastructure across the country is adjusting to this new paradigm.

There is evidence that arrests for cannabis actually increased last year despite legalization efforts. There’s also the devastating and backward approach to cannabis taken by Jeff Sessions, the current attorney general.

Unfortunately, the same communities that disproportionately bear the brunt of prohibition’s consequences now will likely continue to suffer in the future unless legalization is broad and sweeping. The more restrictive of the laws in place that allow for safe and legal access, the more people that are left to break those laws out of medical desperation for themselves or loved ones.


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