DEA Considering Reclassifying Marijuana

marijuana-Schedule 1The DEA has announced that they are considering reclassifying Marijuana from a Schedule 1 Drug to something less.  The implications could have enormous consequences which could drastically change the way we deal with marijuana in the criminal justice system.  Under current federal law, Marijuana is classified as a Schedule 1 Drug.  This is the highest classification for the ranking of drugs.  This classification includes Heroin and Cocaine.  The current classification of marijuana makes it illegal under federal law to prescribe marijuana for medical purposes since Class 1 drugs have no current accepted medical use.  24 states currently permit medical marijuana in violation of federal law.  If the federal government reclassified marijuana to something less than a Schedule 1 drug, this would allow researchers to work with the plant to explore possible medical uses.  Since Marijuana is classified a Schedule 1 drug, researches can only legally obtain the plant through a single federal government garden that has strict restrictions on the ability to obtain the plant for research purposes.  Marijuana was added to schedule 1 in 1970. The DEA regularly considers reclassifying drugs.  They have previously considered reclassifying marijuana in the past and have always refused.  In a letter to Congress, the DEA informed them that they will be conducting a review of marijuana but did not include a date by which they will decide.  It is expected that a decision will be coming down sometime this summer.  There is a growing belief among medical professionals that marijuana may have medical benefits that could provide a viable alternative to prescription drugs.  The belief is not universal but there is a growing consensus that the medical benefits do deserve to be explored and that research needs to be conducted.  Unlike prescription medication, marijuana comes in different strains and potency which could affect different conditions in unique ways.  Classifying marijuana a Schedule 1 drug has made it very difficult for medical research to conduct the necessary research to explore any possible benefits.

It seems like the political climate is moving towards easing the prohibition on marijuana.  In addition to the legalization of medical marijuana, a couple of months ago, the Republican led House of Representatives passed a measure which would allow VA doctors to legally recommend, and prescribe, medical marijuana to veterans, the same way doctors can in the 24 states that have allowed for medical marijuana.  The Senate has passed a similar measure, but since there’s slight differences in the legislation, the bills need to be reconciled. It is believed that President Obama would sign such legislation if it were sent to his desk.  The fact that Congress would pass such legislation is further proof of the momentum that has been building towards becoming more tolerant and accepting of marijuana.

While nobody thinks that marijuana is going to be legalized anytime soon, reclassifying marijuana from a Schedule 1 drug to something less is clearly a necessary first step to the beginning of this process.  In preparation for the possible legalization of marijuana in the future, people are already looking at the possible financial benefits that could arise.  According to a recent report from NerdWallet, states could stand to gain $3.1 billion per year in tax revenue if marijuana were to be legalized.  The Federal Government is seen as the biggest obstacle to legalizing marijuana.  The Federal Government classifying marijuana a Schedule 1 drug means that businesses engaging in the marijuana business cannot take tax deductions like normal business can.  In addition, financial institutions are unwilling to do business with business that do business with marijuana out of fear of criminal prosecution.  For that reason, reclassifying marijuana to something other than a Schedule 1 drug may be the beginning of a movement that could eventually lead to legalizing marijuana.

While it remains to be seen if the DEA will reclassify marijuana as something less than a Class 1 drug, the momentum seems to be moving in that direction.  Under Illinois law, it is against the law to possess marijuana. The severity of the potential punishment depends on the amount of marijuana you are caught with.  If you have less than 30 grams of marijuana, you could be facing a misdemeanor.  If the amount of the marijuana is over 30 grams, you could be facing felony charges.

James Dimeas is an award winning Chicago criminal defense attorney and author with more than 23 years of experience aggressively representing his clients against marijuana charges.  If you have a marijuana case in Illinois, contact me in Chicago (312-229-5500), DuPage and Kane (630-504-2096) or Lake (847-696-6458) for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your legal options.

Additional Resources:

DEA Drug Schedules.

720 ILCS 550/4.

Cannabis Cash:  How Much Money Could Your State Make From Marijuana Legalization? Divya Raghavan, Nerdwallet, September 22, 2014.