Federal Agency Recommends Marijuana Reclassification and Rescheduling
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which is the Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), recommended that the DEA reclassify marijuana from a Schedule I substance (the most serious classification) to a Schedule III substance under the Controlled Substances Act. While this recommendation falls short of national calls for decriminalization of marijuana, such an action could have broad implications for the burgeoning marijuana industry and individuals charged with federal marijuana crimes. Drugs classified as Schedule I, such as heroin, PCP, and currently marijuana, have “no currently accepted medical use” and are noted for their high potential for abuse, which makes medical research difficult and poses issues for businesses that engage with the drug The reclassification would allow for further medical research, open up the possibility for businesses to claim federal tax advantages, and generally signal to law enforcement that the federal government would not view marijuana offenses as serious as other drug crimes, such as crack cocaine which is currently scheduled as a Schedule II drug. In addition, it would radically change exposure under certain criminal laws and sentencing provisions.
Illinois Senators Co-Sponsor Bill to Allow Financial Institutions to Engage with Marijuana Industry
A bill co-sponsored by Illinois Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth recently passed in the House of Representatives and is expected to pass the Senate that would prohibit the Federal government from penalizing lending institutions that provide banking services to the marijuana industry. Currently, under federal law, banks and lending institutions are prohibited from engaging with the marijuana industry because of the drugs classification and the fact that it remains illegal on the federal level. However, this new bill would allow these institutions to engage with the currently all cash business and allow individuals and companies to seek lines of credit and open up checking accounts for their marijuana businesses, allowing more individuals to capitalize on the growing industry. Removing these barriers reflects the federal government’s new perspective surrounding how marijuana is regulated and is another step towards decriminalizing the drug.