The Dept of Health and Human Services (HHS) has signed off on rescheduling THC as a Schedule III drug, the first of three steps required for marijuana to become just another medication:
A top official at the Department of Health and Human Services wrote Drug Enforcement Agency administrator Anne Milgram calling for marijuana to be reclassified as a Schedule III drug under the Controlled Substances Act, according to a letter dated Aug. 29 seen by Bloomberg News. This would mark a critical shift from its current status as a Schedule I substance, which includes drugs with a high abuse risk like heroin.
Assistant Secretary for Health Rachel Levine said in the letter that her recommendation was based on a Food and Drug Administration review of marijuana’s classification. The Controlled Substances Act places substances regulated under federal law into one of five schedules based on its medical use, potential for abuse, and safety or dependence liability.
HHS approval is one step in the process to rescheduling. The Drug Enforcement Administration also must sign off. The timeline is uncertain. But HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra recently said he hoped to have a decision for President Biden “this year.”
Cannabis companies and shareholders chortled with joy:
Cannabis stocks jumped more than 10% on news that the federal government is moving closer to reclassifying marijuana, which would cut taxes on companies at a time when they desperately need the cash.
Verano Holdings stock jumped 20% to $3.20 per share Green Thumb Industries shares rose 18% to $8.15 and Cresco Labs stock climbed 13% to $1.15.
Verano CEO George Archos said in a statement: “It’s about damn time.”
“We at Verano are incredibly excited to hear the news that the Department of Health & Human Services is calling for the rescheduling of cannabis to Schedule III,” the statement said. “For far too long, cannabis prohibition and its outdated status as a Schedule I substance have unduly harmed countless individuals affected by the failed war on drugs."
Rescheduling cannabis to a Schedule III drug would allow marijuana companies to claim the same types of normal deductions as other businesses, which would dramatically improve their financials at a time when even the largest companies are hurting.
It is about damn time. Schedule I drugs include heroin and LSD; Schedule III drugs include Tylenol with codeine, testosterone, and ketamine.
Not to mention, rescheduling cannabis would result in the cessation of Federal drug enforcement efforts against marijuana users and sellers, regardless of what party controls Congress or the White House. (Unfortunately for servicemembers, marijuana has its own special place in the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Article 112a will still enable the JAG corps to recommend dishonorable discharge for servicemembers caught with up to 30 grams of pot.)
Disclosure: I own shares of Chicago-based Green Thumb Industries.