In late August, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) made the historic move of recommending to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) that it migrate the Controlled Substances Act classification of marijuana from Schedule I (the most restrictive) to Schedule III.
Cannabis Schedule III: Industry Responses
Cannabis Schedule III: Industry Responses. Below, a number of cannabis industry professionals share their feelings about the proposed reclassification in exclusive interviews with Higher Learning LV.
Alana Armstrong, Alan Aldous
Alana Armstrong is Head Publicist and Content Strategist at Toronto-based PR firm and digital marketing agency Alan Aldous. In her comments below, she provides a view of the cannabis developments in Washington, D.C. from a Canadian perspective.
"[The HHS announcement is] an intriguing move indeed! As a cannabis professional in Canada, it's fascinating to witness the ripple effects of regulatory changes south of the border. The Biden Administration's push to reevaluate the classification of cannabis is bound to resonate beyond U.S. borders, impacting global perceptions of cannabis.
"It doesn't appear that it will do much to alleviate the financial and banking stress that operators are experiencing. But it does sparks questions about international collaboration and research advancements."
"This potential shift to Schedule III holds promise not only for the medical cannabis sector, but also for those of us navigating the intricate landscape of all legal cannabis in general.
"It doesn't appear that [a shift to Schedule III] will do much to alleviate the financial and banking stress that operators are experiencing. But it does spark questions about international collaboration, research advancements, and the potential for harmonized regulations. Exciting times ahead for the industry as we continue to witness the evolution of cannabis on a global scale."
Graham Farrar, Glass House Brands
Graham Farrar is President of Glass House Brands, a California-based cannabis brand known for operating the world's largest greenhouse-based cultivation facility in Santa Barbara. Below, Farrar talked to Higher Learning LV about his feelings regarding the Schedule III recommendation.
"While we applaud that HHS recommendation to remove cannabis from Schedule I, which clearly has no basis in science or in fact—and are excited to see the first tangible glimmer of progress on the federal front—we continue to believe that the appropriate path is not rescheduling, but descheduling.
"Rescheduling has many positive implications, notably the removal of 280E taxation. However, it does not get any of the 2,700 non-violent cannabis POWs out of prison."
"Rescheduling has many positive implications for the industry and consumers, notably the removal of 280E taxation. However, it does not get any of the 2,700 non-violent cannabis POWs out of prison.
"We are happy to see the incremental process that moving to Schedule III represents. But at the same time we feel strongly that society needs to continue to advocate for a complete removal of cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act. Cannabis is nature and nature should not be illegal."
Tim Johnson, Cannabis Safety First
"When the news from the federal agency Health & Human Services was released, it seemed to have awakened a giant. The cannabis community and industry responded with unforeseen togetherness in the masses. Both those for and against the recommendation to place cannabis on the CSA Schedule III jumped on social media to share their input.
"Should a Schedule VI, Nutraceuticals, be created as a DEA scheduled class?"
"From a CSA Schedule III medical point, cannabis doesn't justify the warning level of harm of other drugs in this class. Should a Schedule VI, Nutraceuticals, be created as a DEA scheduled class? A shift to Schedule III would result in criminal justice reform and some relief in conviction sentencing. Penalties from Schedule I differ from that of III. I don't see an impact in the illicit market.
"The rescheduling of cannabis presents valid points from either viewpoint. There will be no happiness cookie for all. However, in the end, this event has brought us out and together for a plant...."
Kim Prince, Proven Media
Kim Prince, founder and president of Proven Media, a leading cannabis-centric PR firm, was among the many critics of the move by the HHS. She said she believes that the HHS recommendation is intended not to help the cannabis industry or patients, but is merely political posturing intended to sway youthful voters in the 2024 election.
The HHS recommendation "is a compromise that ultimately may end up hurting the industry by putting cannabis into the hands of big pharma and, thereby, making it less accessible and more expensive for consumers," said Prince.
"The move is a lame and all too transparent attempt by the Biden Administration to gain the support of young voters," said Prince in an exclusive interview with Higher Learning LV for this article. "It is a compromise that ultimately may end up hurting the industry by putting cannabis into the hands of big pharma and, thereby, making it less accessible and more expensive for consumers," said Prince.
Dena Putnam, Leafwize Naturals
According to Dena Putnam, founder and president at California-based Leafwize Naturals, a CBD and alt cannabinoid online retail vendor, Schedule III brings multiple benefits, despite the fact that it is not, in her opinion, "the grand prize for which we've been hoping."
"Schedule III status would remove the stranglehold of the 280E tax rule which has been a major drain on the balance sheet of every legally-operating cannabis entity in the country," Putnam told Higher Learning LV in an exclusive interview.
Putnam pointed out that the downsides of Schedule III include a preservation of criminalization and severe restrictions on use of cannabis "by those who need it most."
Putnam pointed out that the downsides of Schedule III include a preservation of criminalization and severe restrictions on use of cannabis "by those who need it most." "The other bummer is that it gets put under the purview of the FDA. Yes, the same folks who've declined to regulate CBD for several years now," said Putnam.
"This could also potentially negate the need for the SAFE banking legislation and allow cannabis cash to be put into the banking system, opening up financial services like business loans. This would be a big win for cannabis business security and solvency," concluded the company founder.
To read our 3,800-word deep dive examination of this important industry development, check out Deep Dive: HHS Recommends Rescheduling Cannabis to Schedule III.
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