Cannabis rescheduling

Drug Policy Question of the Week – 12-15-11

As answered by Mary Jane Borden, Editor of Drug War Facts for the Drug Truth Network on 12-15-11.

Question of the Week: How can cannabis be rescheduled?

According to the Congressional Research Service, the current scheduling scheme for various drugs called the Controlled Substances Act

“was signed into law as the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970.”

Found under Title 21 of the U.S. Commercial Code. Subchapter I, Section 812 the CSA

“established five schedules of controlled substances, to be known as schedules I, II, III, IV, and V.”

In “Initial Schedules of Controlled Substances,” the CSA placed marijuana and its derivatives under Schedule 1, the most restrictive of the five categories.

Note usage of the term initial. In theory, the schedule of cannabis or any other drug (there are hundreds) can be upgraded (to a more restrictive schedule) or downgraded (to a less restrictive one).

The Congressional Research Service unfortunately notes that

“Lawmakers have repeatedly rebuffed campaigns to reschedule marijuana under the CSA, a step that would permit marijuana to be used for some medical purposes. Likewise, courts have refused to carve out exceptions to the CSA, even for individuals who claim a dire need for the drug.”

Thus, Congress has the authority to reschedule, as do the courts given the right case, but so far neither has done so.

Robert Miklos in the Stanford Law Review counters that,

“the CSA authorizes the Attorney General to [reschedule], in consultation with the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the DEA. … the President would not need the consent of Congress to make this more fundamental change to federal law.”

Thus, the President and his Executive Branch have the authority to reschedule cannabis, but so far refuse to do so.

These facts and others like them can be found in the Crime and Medical Marijuana Chapters of Drug War Facts at