Cogdill Nichols Rein Wartelle Andrews (CNRWA)

Contact Us Today


Trusted Legal Counsel In Everett And Beyond

How could the reclassification of marijuana affect its legality?

On Behalf of | May 22, 2024 | Criminal Defense

There appears to be some long-awaited movement in the effort to get marijuana reclassified by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) from a Schedule I drug to Schedule III. Advocates, including a number of political leaders, have long argued that marijuana has no place with substances like heroin and ecstasy in Schedule I, which is reserved for the most dangerous and addictive drugs with (arguably) no medicinal value. Even drugs like fentanyl and cocaine are Schedule II drugs.

Moving marijuana to Schedule III would put it in the same category as testosterone, ketamine and anabolic steroids, which have recognized medicinal uses – as marijuana does. Washington is among the growing number of states that has legalized marijuana for recreational use for adults (with restrictions). However, it is still illegal for any purpose under federal law.

Reclassification and legalization aren’t the same thing

People often assume that the laws prohibiting marijuana (at least federal laws) are tied to the fact that it’s a Schedule I drug. In fact, the categorization of drugs by the DEA has nothing to do with their legality. As such, if marijuana becomes a Schedule III drug, it would still be considered a controlled substance. It would also still be prohibited under federal law and in the states where it’s currently illegal for recreational and in some cases even for medicinal purposes.

So, what difference would reclassification make?

In the event of reclassification, researchers would face fewer barriers to using it in clinical studies. It would also lower the federal taxes paid by cannabis businesses. However, as one official with a cannabis business association notes, the drug would still be “in this kind of amorphous, mucky middle where people are not going to understand the danger of it still being federally illegal.”

In the event of a prosecution related to the drug, offenders would also likely face lower penalties than they would if they faced a charge tied to a Schedule I drug. However, it will remain illegal federally and in many states unless additional legal changes are made.