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What are the pros and cons of moving cannabis to Schedule III?

Today, guest writer Andrew Ward helps you answer some burning questions.

Happy Sunday everybody,

Today’s newsletter is a guest post from my friend and fellow cannabis writer Andrew Ward.

Andrew is a longtime journalist with a penchant for cannabis culture stories (and much more), and I’m excited to be publishing some of his work here on Cultivated!

See you all next week.


Today’s Cultivated is sponsored by Durée & Company.

Durée & Company is one of the top public relations and marketing firms in the cannabis industry.

I can say that with confidence: I’ve worked with the team and their deep roster of clients on many stories, and I always value their insight and expertise about all things cannabis.

Their team makes a commitment to stay ahead of the curve on the ever-changing landscape of cannabis regulations. They maintain a strong network of connections with media, influencers, and thought leaders to ensure they can get your story placed.

Durée & Company works with companies across the cannabis supply chain, from growth and manufacturing to testing and professional services.

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Get ready for a shocker to no one: Tons of comments and social media posts have been made in the week and a half since the Department of Health and Human Services recommended that the Drug Enforcement Agency reschedule cannabis to Schedule III.

Even less of a shocker: Opinions split among most segments of the pro-cannabis community, except most investors — they're mostly on board with the decision. 

As you may already know, cannabis is considering a Schedule I drug by the federal government, which by definition, is a drug with a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use.

Schedule III, on the other hand, includes widely used medicinal drugs like codeine.

Why it matters: The topic marks the latest proof that the pro-cannabis movement rarely, if ever, moves in lockstep. 

Could the division grow as the market and legalization efforts progress?

Below, are six of the most common pros and cons being discussed.  

📈 What the industry is saying:

  1. Pro: Eliminates major business tax burdens: In a massive boost for business, moving cannabis to Schedule III would allow cannabis businesses to finally shed 280E worries and deduct standard expenses, gain greater access to capital, and, ideally, operate in the black. 

  2. Con: Doesn't meet goals or align with most states: Cannabis leaders across the space, notably advocates and many legal experts, have stated that Schedule III is not the ultimate goal of legalization or a complete de-scheduling of the plant. Nor does the decision seem to align with the legalization movement in 38 states. Schedule III, experts say, doesn’t specifically allow recreational use.

  3. Pro: Accelerates research: With the HHS scientific review concluded, cannabis could soon see a flurry of US-based research if the DEA follows the recommendation. If no longer deemed ‘too dangerous for research,’ new pathways will open, ideally closing critical education gaps in the coming years, possibly leading to additional FDA-approved medicines in time. 

  4. Con: Doesn't address inequity: Social justice advocates claim the action falls short of the now-offline 2020 decriminalization policy plan laid out by the Biden campaign. Advocates say the criminalization of the plant and minority populations will continue without social justice parameters. According to the ACLU, in 2018, Black people were 1.5x (Colorado) to 9.6x (Montana) more likely to be arrested for cannabis.

  5. Mixed: It's a positive step: Numerous advocates, operators and legal minds appear split on the decision. While the measure does push cannabis legalization forward, it could be seen as a shortcoming or at least an undesired compromise. Could Schedule III be a step towards full-scale legalization, or will this satisfy the desires of big business enough to extinguish their effort to advance legalization further? 

  6. TBD: Not a sure thing: The HHS recommendation is seen as a substantial milestone regardless of industry sentiment. Still, it is far from a sure thing. The DEA has not provided a timeline, making many speculate that an answer should come before the November 2024 election. If using the HHS research timeline, a result may come in 11 months, or August 2024. But this is all speculation at this time — and does not ensure that DEA will take up the recommendation. 

Keep up: With no defined timeline, the industry and its advocates await the DEA decision. In the meantime, opinions will continue to be posited online and offline. 

Stay tuned for more developments.

Andrew Ward is a Brooklyn-based journalist, author, and copywriter, featured in Rolling Stone, Business Insider, High Times and more — covering cannabis, horror, and other topics. He is the author of Cannabis Jobs and Marijuana Etiquette.