Marijuana Rumors: Will the Government Reclassify Cannabis?

A politician holds a marijuana joint during a federal hearing

A politician holds a marijuana joint during a federal hearing | Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

We’ve been waiting for years now to see if (or when) the federal government would make a formal move concerning marijuana legalization. Though the Obama administration has left the legalization process in the hands of voters in individual states thus far, marijuana cultivation and possession is still a federal crime — and a new administration could easily pull the plug on the whole thing as easily as Obama has turned a blind eye to it. But so far, aside from some signals from the Supreme Court, we’ve gotten no indication as to which way the feds would sway.

Some rumors swirling around Capitol Hill, however, may give us an indication as to what may happen next. If those rumors hold true, we can expect to see cannabis rescheduled from Schedule I to Schedule II, and relatively soon.

The rumors stem from an article published by the Santa Monica Observer, and subsequent investigations into the claims made by the article have many people thinking that it’s a bunch of hyperbolic nonsense. So, there may not actually be anything to the rumors at all. The original post makes the claim that the federal government had planned on rescheduling marijuana as a Schedule II drug as soon as August 1, and doesn’t present much evidence to back that claim up.

The question is, should you believe it?

Marijuana reclassification

Sunrise at the U.S. Capitol as the federal government shut down goes in to its fifth day on October 5, 2013 in Washington, DC. The House will vote today on the measure to restore back pay to federal employees who have been furloughed during the shutdown before recessing until Monday. The vote is expected to pass with bipartisan support. (Photo by Chris Maddaloni/Getty Images)

Sunrise at the U.S. Capitol | Chris Maddaloni/Getty Images

It’s not exactly clear, yet, whether or not you should take the bait. While it is easy to get excited about the idea of some movement on the federal front in regards to cannabis regulation, we have to remember that any such move would be huge — and lots of entrenched interest groups would be compelled to speak up loudly against it.

But that doesn’t mean that the wheels aren’t in motion, so to speak. There are several representatives in the Senate and House of Representatives who are working hard to reclassify cannabis, or at the very least, convince their federal counterparts that marijuana legalization is in the best interests of the country at large. It’s not an overly difficult case to make; the few states that have legalized (Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska) have largely benefited from their voter-passed initiatives.

However, we still haven’t seen an indication as to what might happen. Again, the big issue here is that the next president can, at any time, decide to use the full force of the federal government to shutter the legal markets in states where voters have opted to allow cultivation and sales to occur. A shutdown could result in the disappearance of thousands of jobs, and millions in tax revenues.

Chris Christie, for example, had promised to do just that before he shut down his campaign. It’s unclear what would happen under a Clinton or Trump administration.

What’s next for legalization

Customers shop for marijuana at Top Shelf Cannabis, a retail marijuana store in Bellingham, Washington

Customers shop for marijuana at Top Shelf Cannabis, a retail marijuana store in Bellingham, Washington | David Ryder/Getty Images

For now, it seems that we should probably take any rumors or promises of federal movement on the legalization front with a large grain of salt. Of course, we are likely to see something happen at some point, but in terms of a rescheduling happening on August 1, as the Santa Monica Observer reports? Temper your enthusiasm until it actually happens.

But what if the government does actually decide to reschedule cannabis as a Schedule II drug? Does that actually indicate any progress? That appears to depend on who you ask. While it would be better than where we are now, it’s not necessarily a great outcome. It’s pretty clear that marijuana isn’t nearly as dangerous as it’s been made out to be over the years, and there haven’t been any clear signs out of legalized states that the entire experiment was a bad idea.

In fact, policymakers in others states are (or should be) frothing at the mouth to push their own legalization initiatives, in order to create jobs and generate additional revenues.

Placing cannabis into the Schedule II category has been described as a “nightmare scenario” by some, and there are some rather compelling reasons to think that. But it would allow doctors and researchers more access to cannabis, which could potentially help unlock cannabis for more commercial use down the road. We just don’t know yet.

In terms of these rumors, don’t get your hopes up just yet. We’re going to see the feds make a move, and probably soon. Rescheduling cannabis as a Schedule II drug would be a progressive move, but not necessarily the victory most Americans are hoping for.

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