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A new high: DEA moves to reclassify marijuana

Move from Schedule I to Schedule III could bring regulatory change
Posted at 5:29 PM, Apr 30, 2024

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Earlier today, the Drug Enforcement Administration proposed a historic reclassification of marijuana from a Schedule I to a Schedule III substance.

The move signifies a watershed moment in U.S. drug policy. The shift acknowledges marijuana's medicinal value and lower potential for abuse compared to more dangerous drugs like heroin and LSD.

Pending final approval from the White House Office of Management and Budget, the move could have far-reaching implications for the cannabis industry and beyond.

Moe Asnani, founder of D2 Dispensaries, expressed jubilation at the news, emphasizing its monumental significance. "I was ecstatic," Asnani said, reflecting the widespread sentiment among cannabis advocates who have long awaited such a change.

The proposed reclassification, while not synonymous with full legalization, holds promise for alleviating burdensome regulations that have hindered the industry's growth.

Operating under the current regulatory framework has presented numerous challenges for cannabis businesses.

Asnani highlighted the difficulties faced, from limited access to banking services due to cannabis' scheduling status, to onerous tax liabilities due to restrictions on deductions.

"With taxes, we’ve not been able to write off the same things as other companies can," Asnani explained, underscoring the unequal treatment faced by cannabis enterprises.

Transitioning marijuana to Schedule III could offer much-needed relief to businesses burdened by financial constraints and regulatory hurdles.

Asnani articulated hopes for smoother operations and expanded growth opportunities, envisioning a future where cannabis companies can operate more freely.

"We hope that they’ll (consumers) be able to pay with credit cards and contactless payments, just like they're used to doing in many other businesses," Asnani said, anticipating improvements in consumer transactions.

However, the proposed rescheduling won't immediately resolve all regulatory disparities, particularly concerning interstate commerce and state-level regulations.

Asnani acknowledged the persistent challenges, including Arizona's prohibition on cross-state cannabis sales, which is unlikely to change in the near term.

"In the short term, I don't think that will change," Asnani remarked, recognizing the complexities involved.

Critics of the DEA's proposal raise concerns about potential negative repercussions, while proponents advocate for broader reforms, including marijuana's removal from the controlled substances list.

Asnani urged policymakers to prioritize state-licensed businesses and ensure that the industry's interests are protected.

"I think it's most important that state-licensed businesses are the focus of this," Asnani said, emphasizing the need to safeguard against corporate takeover by large pharmaceutical companies.

The DEA's move to reclassify marijuana represents a significant step toward aligning federal policy with evolving societal attitudes and scientific understanding.

While challenges persist, the proposed rescheduling signals a promising shift in drug policy that could catalyze positive changes for the cannabis industry and individuals affected by outdated regulations.

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Eddie Celaya is a multimedia journalist at KGUN 9. Born in Tucson and raised in the Phoenix area, Eddie is a life-long Arizonan and graduate of the University of Arizona who loves the desert and mountains and hates the cold. Previously, Eddie worked in print media at the Arizona Daily Star. Share your story ideas with Eddie at edward.celaya@kgun9.com, or by connecting on Facebook or Instagram.