Removal Of Cannabis From Schedule I Of The Controlled Substances Act
Since 1972, there have been numerous proposals in the United States to remove cannabis from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, the most tightly restricted category reserved for drugs which have "no currently accepted medical use". Rescheduling proponents argue that cannabis does not meet the Controlled Substances Act's strict criteria for placement in Schedule I, and therefore the government is required by law either to permit medical use or to remove the drug from federal control altogether. The government, on the other hand, maintains that cannabis is dangerous enough to merit Schedule I status. The dispute is based on differing views on how the Act should be interpreted and what kinds of scientific evidence are most relevant to the rescheduling decision.
The Controlled Substances Act provides a process for rescheduling controlled substances by petitioning the Drug Enforcement Administration. The first petition under this process was filed in 1972 to allow cannabis to be legally prescribed by physicians. The petition was ultimately denied after 22 years of court challenges, although a pill form of cannabis' psychoactive ingredient, THC, was rescheduled in 1985 to allow prescription under schedule II. In 1999 it was again rescheduled to allow prescription under schedule III. A second petition, based on claims related to clinical studies, was denied in 2001. The most recent rescheduling petition was filed by medical cannabis advocates in 2002, but was denied by the DEA in July 2011. Subsequently, medical cannabis advocacy group Americans for Safe Access filed an appeal in January 2012 with the D.C. Circuit, which was heard on October 16, 2012. As of November 2012, 18 states and Washington D.C. have legalized the use of medical marijuana, and hemp products are sold widely in the U.S. today.
Advocates of marijuana legalization argue that the budgetary impact of removing cannabis from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act and legalizing its use in the United States could save billions by reducing government spending for prohibition enforcement in the criminal justice system. Additionally, they argue that billions in annual tax revenues could be generated through proposed taxation and regulation. But, more importantly, patient advocates argue that by reclassifying marijuana, millions of Americans who are currently prevented from using medical marijuana would be able to benefit from its therapeutic value.
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