Bipartisan legislation proposed in the House on Thursday would make marijuana a Schedule 3 drug, removing cannabis from its current standing as a Schedule 1 substance alongside deadly contraband including ecstasy and heroin.
By reclassifying weed in the same category as anabolic steroids, Congress would “make it easier for ill-patients and scientific and medical researchers to obtain marijuana,” the bill’s authors said in a statement Thursday.
On the heels of a bicameral effort to outright legalize weed offered a week earlier, Thursday’s proposal by freshmen Florida Reps. Matt Gaetz, a Republican, and Darren Soto, a Democrat, aims to roll back the federal government’s ongoing pot prohibition to a lesser extent by removing existing hurdles said to be hindering researchers’ ability to understand the plant’s potential benefits.
The federal government currently considers marijuana a Schedule 1 narcotic, a category prescribed to substances which “have no currently accepted medical use in the United States, a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision and a high potential for abuse.”
Nonetheless, 28 states and the nation’s capital have approved laws allowing for residents with certain conditions to be medically treated with marijuana.
By reclassifying marijuana as a Schedule 3 substance, the bipartisan duo from the Sunshine State intend to put weed in a category reserved for substances that “have a potential for abuse less than substances in Schedules I or II and abuse may lead to moderate or low physical dependence or high psychological dependence.”
According to Mr. Gaetz,the reclassification would also remove existing hurdles that make it difficult for researchers to work with marijuana, as well as obstacles that prevent the cannabis industry from doing business with licensed banks.
“This drug should not be in the same category as heroin and LSD, and we do not need to continue with a policy that turns thousands of young people into felons every year. Nor do we need to punish the millions of people who are sick and seeking medical help — from pain, from muscle wasting, from chemotherapy-induced nausea” Mr. Gaetz said in a statement.
“It’s a modest step forward to try to find the most possible common ground,” he said of his bill in an interview with The Cannabist this week. “I’ve seen that work.”
Nine-in-ten Americans support legalizing medical marijuana, according to the bill’s authors. In their home state, meanwhile, 71 percent of voters approved a measure last year that makes it legal for Florida doctors to prescribe weed to patients with certain conditions.
“Floridians have spoken and Medical Marijuana is the law of the land. It’s now time for the federal government to recognize this emerging law and the well-known medical benefits of marijuana” Mr. Soto added.
Back in Washington, meanwhile, Sen. Ron Wyden and Rep. Earl Blumenauer, Oregon Democrats, introduced a bill a week earlier that would remove marijuana from the list of banned drugs and pave the way for federal regulation.
Both efforts come in the heels of Attorney General Jeff Sessions saying last month that he believed medical marijuana is “hyped.”