benefits and risks

The Ripple Effects Of Rescheduling Cannabis: Guns, Banking, Credit Cards, Risks

Good news for everyone waiting for the feds to start thinking about weed— The Justice Department is considering reclassifying cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule III under the Controlled Substances Act. Like everything, there’s bad in the good and good in the bad. 

While it wouldn’t legalize cannabis entirely, this move would drastically change how cannabis is regulated federally. The states would still have the chance to make their own rules, but they’re already doing that anyway. 

Earlier this week, the DEA opened a public commenting period, allowing people to voice their opinions— whether for or against—across the nation. The reclassification could impact a lot of different stuff, from banking and gun ownership to healthcare and state laws.

Read More: DOJ Welcomes Public Comments On Cannabis Rescheduling

Let’s take a look at what’s happening and what it could mean for the future of cannabis in the United States. 

What's Happening

For some background, cannabis is still federally illegal as a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act. Advocates have been pushing for it to come down a bit since the penalties for having, using, transporting, or selling Schedule I drugs are intense, and cannabis doesn’t fit in with the other Schedule I substances. 

By definition, Schedule I substances possess “a high potential for abuse” and include hard drugs like ecstasy, heroin, and LSD. 

The rule the government is proposing would “transfer marijuana from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act to Schedule III of the CSA, consistent with the view of the Department of Health and Human Services that marijuana has a currently accepted medical use as well as HHS’s views about marijuana’s abuse potential and level of physical or psychological dependence.”

More or less, it means that weed would be recognized for its medical use with a lower potential for abuse. It wouldn’t become federally legal at all— it would still be a controlled substance, but the consequences of buying and using it would be drastically reduced. It might also bring the states and the federal government closer together, allowing the cannabis issue to level itself out.

The DEA’s public comment period will end in July. Until then, proponents and opponents are invited to leave feedback on this change. In the end, the DEA will weigh the pros and cons, and the feds will make a decision. 

While some advocate for full legalization or de-scheduling, rescheduling would still be a positive step in the right direction. Now that weed is legal pretty much everywhere, it seems like a crime that there are people in federal prisons for marijuana.  Key reform groups are mobilizing to influence the process. Some threaten litigation should these changes be made, while others consider the potential benefits as they pertain to crime, economic, and social landscapes. 

If Rescheduling Happens, Is Cannabis Still Illegal?

If cannabis is reclassified to Schedule III, it will still be federally regulated but recognized for medical use. In layman’s terms, that just means it’ll be regulated and treated like other prescription drugs, like anabolic steroids. 

However, when Biden first announced the rescheduling action, he mentioned his belief that nobody should be in jail for possessing cannabis. 

Rescheduling would ease some restrictions and reduce some of the penalties for cannabis-related offenses, even going so far as to potentially expunge and release cannabis prisoners. However, it wouldn’t equate to complete legalization or decriminalization. 

The states would still be responsible for how their cannabis industry operates. That said, it’ll still be illegal federally and in some states too. 

If Rescheduling Happens, What Would Happen to the Economy?

Most of the proponents for rescheduling cannabis have strong economic projections for weed. Legal cannabis tourism might increase, attracting visitors to states with established cannabis markets. The industry could see job growth in cultivation, retail, and other areas. 

Tax revenues from cannabis sales would likely rise. Right now, state-level weed legalization is a multi-billion dollar industry that could benefit from federal tax relief under the reform. 

Read More: Florida’s Government Milking The Cannabis Cash Cow

The Department of Justice “acknowledges that there may be large impacts related to Federal taxes and research and development investment for the pharmaceutical industry, among other things.”

While the full economic impact would depend on state policies, rescheduling is expected to provide an economic stimulus by integrating cannabis more fully into the legal marketplace. The problem is that it’ll still be up to the states, and what the taxes would look like could change drastically. 

If Rescheduling Happens, What Would Happen to Healthcare?

The healthcare industry might be the most excited about the rescheduling of cannabis. Bringing weed down to something on par with prescription medications would mean that doctors would no longer risk their licenses by providing medical marijuana cards to patients in need. More doctors would be willing to prescribe cannabis as medicine, and patients could see more access to it. 

On the other hand, it would pave the way for more and more research, including clinical trials with cannabis. Considering cannabis as a medicinal substance for the first time in the eyes of the federal government would make for more comprehensive studies on its benefits and risks, as well as new cannabis-based medications and treatments. 

Right now, the only FDA-approved cannabis medication is a CBD product for seizures called Epidiolex. Studies have shown that cannabinoids interact with the body in a lot of ways already, and providing more resources for scientists to identify how these compounds behave in the body could someday lead to an FDA-approved cure for cancer. 

Insurance companies might even start covering cannabis treatments, reducing costs for patients. Again, though— it’s up to the states to decide if cannabis will remain illegal and what restrictions will be imposed. 

Guns and Marijuana in Florida

How Cannabis Rescheduling Affects Gun Ownership

One of the most common questions about rescheduling comes from gun owners. You have the right to bear arms in this country— unless you live in a state with weed and they’ve got laws on it. 

Unfortunately, not a lot will change for gun owners with rescheduling. Federal law still prohibits cannabis users, including those with a concealed carry permit, from owning or purchasing firearms per the Gun Control Act, which remains unchanged by rescheduling. 

Some states enforce these laws a lot more strictly than others, requiring gun owners to relinquish their firearms upon obtaining a medical marijuana card. In other states, you can have both guns and medical marijuana. 

Oklahoma, for example, once banned cannabis users from having guns in line with federal restrictions but later found the law to be unconstitutional and overturned it. 

More or less, though, rescheduling cannabis won’t change much for state-to-state laws surrounding cannabis and guns. It all comes down to where you live. 

Read More: Understanding Florida’s Laws on Cannabis and Gun Ownership

How Cannabis Rescheduling Would Affect Banking

One of the most annoying parts of buying weed in any legal state is the cash-only nature of getting your hands on it. 

Since banks are federally insured, they have historically avoided the cannabis industry almost entirely, which is why you have to stop at the ATM before you buy. 

Rescheduling cannabis to Schedule III would likely make banks easier to work with for cannabis businesses. 

Banks would be subject to similar restrictions as pharmaceutical or alcohol companies, making it easier for businesses to access traditional banking services like loans, checking accounts, and credit. 

That access could make for a boost in people purchasing weed and opening new businesses within the cannabis industry. 

Can I Buy Weed with a Credit Card After Rescheduling?

If more banks start working with cannabis, there’s a good chance you’ll finally be able to pay for weed with debit or credit cards, too. If the banks are able to process cannabis transactions without the risk of federal persecution, buying cannabis would be more convenient and accessible for everyone. However, full integration into the financial system may still face hurdles until it’s totally legalized instead of simply rescheduled.  

Would Rescheduling Cannabis Help People Stay Sober?

Lots of people find that cannabis is good for combatting alcohol cravings and have experienced the ability to use it while getting off of harder drugs like opiates. Rescheduling cannabis could make for more accessible weed and support the “Cali sober” lifestyle. 

Ultimately, that means harm reduction. Alcohol-related incidents cause a lot of problems on the road, and safer alternatives might encourage more people to seek sobriety from more harmful substances by making them more accessible. 

Would Rescheduling Marijuana Come with Any Unforeseen Risks?

Like everything, there’s bad in the good and good in the bad. 

Increased access to cannabis might lead to more traffic incidents due to impaired driving. According to NIDA, the percentage of fatal car crashes involving cannabis more than doubled from 2000 to 2018, and the combination of cannabis and alcohol in these incidents also increased significantly.​

There could also be potential rises in crime related to cannabis distribution, manufacturing, cultivation, and use if trends in legal states are any indication. In the same vein, public health concerns, such as higher use among minors or hospital visits for greening out on edibles, might emerge. 

However, the biggest challenges would likely lie in the inconsistencies between state and federal laws, which could make it really hard for both the states and the feds to enforce weed laws. 

Final Thoughts: What Would Happen if Cannabis Was Rescheduled

Rescheduling cannabis to Schedule III would mark a major shift in federal policy as well as public perception. It would acknowledge cannabis’s medical benefits and lower its abuse potential, providing a legal framework similar to other prescription medications. 

This change could mean more research opportunities, access to banking for cannabis businesses, and credit card transactions. Medical marijuana patients might benefit from insurance coverage and a more standardized lab-testing regimen for more controlled product quality. 

However, challenges are always going to be waiting, including the ongoing federal prohibition on gun ownership for cannabis users and the many inconsistencies with the laws the states have established. 

While not full legalization, rescheduling is a step towards integrating cannabis into mainstream society. If you have an opinion, feel free to leave your comments electronically using the Federal eRulemaking Portal using the reference: ‘Docket No. DEA-1362.’ You don’t have to tell them everything.

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