The Pros and Cons of Moving Cannabis to Schedule 3 - 18 Expert Opinions

Nixon meme and potleaf image (via Philadelphia magazine)

Now that Health and Human Services has recommended marijuana be federally rescheduled from 1 to 3, meaning it would be considered to have “moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence” rather than "no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse," experts are weighing in across the spectrum." The HHS recommendation has been sent to the DEA for approval.


In Favor

U.S. Cannabis Council

"Rescheduling will have a broad range of benefits, including signaling to the criminal justice system that cannabis is a lower priority and providing a crucial economic lifeline to the cannabis industry by lifting the 280E tax burden.

"State licensed cannabis businesses of all shapes and sizes will benefit from this historic reform. We urge the DEA to proceed with rescheduling cannabis with all reasonable speed.

"We enthusiastically welcome today's news. President Biden and his Administration recognized that cannabis was wrongly classified as a Schedule I controlled substance, and they are delivering on their promise to change it.

“Rescheduling to Schedule 3 will mark the most significant federal cannabis reform in modern history. President Biden is effectively declaring an end to Nixon’s failed war on cannabis and placing the nation on a trajectory to end prohibition.”

Majority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY)

“HHS has done the right thing and DEA should now quickly follow through on this important step to greatly reduce the harm caused by draconian marijuana laws. While this is a step forward, there is still much more that needs to be done legislatively to end the federal prohibition on cannabis and roll back the War on Drugs. I am committed to continuing to work in Congress to pass important marijuana legislation and criminal justice reform.

"DEA should now follow through on this important step to greatly reduce the harm caused by draconian marijuana laws. There is still much more that needs to be done legislatively to end the federal prohibition on cannabis and roll back the War on Drugs."

Brian Vicente/Vicente LLP

"HHS’s determination confirms that the treatment of marijuana under the CSA has long been inappropriate, as substantial evidence supports marijuana’s medical use and safety. Rescheduling to Schedule III marks a significant change in the status quo and recognition of cannabis as a legitimate medicine. While placement in Schedule III still criminalizes commercial cannabis activity at the federal level, it is a critical step on the path to full descheduling and the end of prohibition.

"Notably, in addition to easing some regulatory barriers to cannabis research, rescheduling cannabis to Schedule III would:

• Reduce criminal penalties for cannabis-related violations of the CSA

• Eliminate the 280E tax problem for cannabis businesses

• Relax various other regulatory burdens like quota requirements, security regulations, etc.

• Take a significant incremental step toward normalizing cannabis under federal law

• Support congressional efforts toward prohibition

Charles Bachtell/CrescoLabs

“It’s giant. I think you would see a healthier cannabis industry a year from now.”

David Goubert/Ayr Wellness

Rescheduling will bring many benefits, including creating further opportunities for medical cannabis research, signaling to the criminal justice system that cannabis is not a high enforcement priority, and allowing for state-licensed cannabis businesses to be treated fairly under the federal tax code via the elimination of 280E."


RELATED: Biden Pardons 6.500 Federal Pot Convicts


Not So Much

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR)

“This is a step in the right direction but it is not sufficient. I hope it is followed by more significant reforms. This is long overdue.”

Paul Armentano/NORML

“It will be very interesting to see how DEA responds to this recommendation, given the agency’s historic opposition to any potential change in cannabis’ categorization under federal law. Further, for decades, the agency has utilized its own five-factor criteria for assessing cannabis’ placement in the CSA — criteria that as recently as 2016, the agency claimed that cannabis failed to meet. Since the agency has final say over any rescheduling decision, it is safe to say that this process still remains far from over.”

NORML adds: "In general, Schedule III controlled substances, like anabolic steroids and ketamine, are FDA-approved drugs that are uniformly regulated by the federal government and are only legally available by prescription."

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) 

“Ultimately, I believe that cannabis should be descheduled with strong federal regulations put in place to protect public health and safety – that’s why I introduced the Cannabis Administration And Opportunity Act with Leader Schumer and Senator Booker. However, the recommendation of HHS to reschedule cannabis as a Schedule III drug is not inconsequential. If HHS’s recommendation is ultimately implemented, it will be a historic step for a nation whose cannabis policies have been out of touch with reality. At long last, barriers to much-needed research will be lifted and the inequitable 280E tax provision thrown in the trash can so that state legal cannabis businesses will no longer be treated like criminals and can deduct their business expenses just like any other small business.

“Progress cannot stop here. The administration and my colleagues in Congress must do more to bring America’s cannabis policy into the 21st century, catch up with the states, and help undo the decades of harm caused by the failed War on Drugs.”

Marijuana Policy Project

"This historic development from the top federal health agency is an encouraging step forward that will deliver real benefits for medical cannabis patients, providers, and researchers. However, moving cannabis to Schedule III will still leave many of the harms of federal prohibition in place.

"Rescheduling cannabis will not resolve the conflicts between federal and state laws, and ultimately action is needed from Congress to enact federal legalization and criminal justice policies."

Rachel Gillette, Holland & Hart

“The question that I have is whether or not the current industry will eventually be replaced by the pharmaceutical industry. I can’t go down to the corner store and buy those things.”

John Hudak, Director of Maine’s Office of Cannabis Policy

“This adjusts the type of security and type of bureaucracy that exists around federal research into the substance [and] it would make it easier for companies to bring cannabis based pharmaceuticals into market. But in terms of administration of a state program, it has very little impact.”


RELATED: Biden Pardons and Commutes Sentences of Nine Cannabis Offenders



Justin Strekal/Bowl PAC

"A super-majority of Americans, including majorities of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents, support ending the federal criminalization of marijuana. The will of the people would not be accomplished under Schedule 3.

"The truth is that rescheduling marijuana maintains federal criminal penalties for possession, even against those in compliance with state-level adult-use and medical cannabis laws. The movement for legalization has fought for too long to accept any criminalization, regardless of Schedule classification. And cannabis can’t be treated the same way as pharmaceutical drugs—marijuana usage has become a norm for so many Americans from all walks of life. Schedule reclassification just doesn’t fit with reality.

"In order to truly fulfill his promise of decriminalizing marijuana, President Biden must remove it from the Controlled Substances Act entirely. Send a letter to President Biden right now demanding that he decriminalize marijuana, not simply reclassify it under the CSA."

Cat Packer/Drug Policy Alliance

“This shift would fall woefully short of the promises made by President Biden during his 2020 presidential election campaign, especially promises made to Black and Brown communities."

Kevin Sabet/Smart Approaches to Marijuana

“The addiction profiteers who have been exposed for lying about marijuana’s physical, mental and economic impacts, are desperately looking for legitimacy in the wake of mounting evidence their products are harming millions of Americans. It is regrettable that the Department of Health and Human Services move now appears to be a nod to those monied interests.”

Brandon Krenzler/Kind Leaf Pendleton

"Don't drink the Kool-Aid. Schedule III is not descheduling, it is rescheduling cannabis right into pharmacies and pharmaceutical control with maximized government profits and control."

Moriah Barnhart/WISE Florida

"I told you Biden's cronies wanted to move cannabis to Schedule III – which would be TERRIBLE. Much worse than what we have now EXCEPT for corporations getting bankng and tax breaks."

Mara Felsen/Attorney

"I'm unclear how rescheduling to Schedule III will help the beleaguered legal cannabis industry. Why would this not foirce sales OUT of the state legal dispensaries and IN to pharmacies?"

Chris Goldstein/Freedom Is Green

"President Nixon would be proud that his personal style of substance regulation would be championed by Democrats 50 years later." 


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Steve Bloom

Steve Bloom

Publisher of, former editor of High Times and Freedom Leaf and co-author of Pot Culture and Reefer Movie Madness.