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Health and Human Services officials spend a year on pot

by Baron Earl

2023-09-03 19:28:00

After a yearlong, comprehensive, thorough, complete investigation into the effects of marijuana usage, Health and Human Services (HHS) officials recommended that it be moved from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act to Schedule III, meaning that the HHS no longer considers cannabis to be a drug with high abuse potential and no medical value.

Under a directive from President Joe Biden last year to review the classification, the HHS has now completed a scientific review of cannabis. HHS is now telling the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) that it believes marijuana should be placed in Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).

The development comes two months after HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said that his agency was aiming to wrap up the review by the end of the year.

"Following the data and science, HHS has expeditiously responded to President Biden's directive to HHS Secretary Becerra and provided its scheduling recommendation for marijuana to the DEA on August 29, 2023," an HHS spokesperson said in a statement on Wednesday. "This administrative process was completed in less than 11 months, reflecting this department's collaboration and leadership to ensure that a comprehensive scientific evaluation be completed and shared expeditiously."

A DEA spokesperson confirmed, "We can confirm DEA received a letter from the Department of Health and Human Services providing its findings and recommendation on marijuana scheduling, pursuant to President Biden's request for a review. As part of this process, HHS conducted a scientific and medical evaluation for consideration by DEA. DEA has the final authority to schedule or reschedule a drug under the Controlled Substances Act. DEA will now initiate its review."

The DEA has the final say, and the agency will now have its own review and decide whether or not to follow the HHS recommendation, but given that the HHS review was called for by President Biden it's likely that cannabis will be moved to Schedule III sometime in the next year, possibly before the 2024 election.

Cannabis will still be illegal under federal law, and state-licensed dispensaries will still be in violation of federal law, but Section 280e of the IRS tax code will no longer apply to cannabis businesses. Section 280e treats state-licensed cannabis businesses as if they are drug traffickers under federal law. It prohibits cannabis businesses from claiming standard business deductions available to every other business in America. It is arguably the biggest financial drain on the cannabis industry, but Section 280e only applies to Schedule I and Schedule II substances, not to Schedule III. Cannabis company stocks rose by up to 29% this week after hearing the recommendation.

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