Modern Canna Laws & Regulations

United States cannabis laws continue to undergo significant changes at a rapid pace. In August in the year 2023, a pivotal development emerged when the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) sent an official message to the Director of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA)  requesting the reevaluation and possible reclassification of marijuana’s legal status under federal law. The proposed reclassification of marijuana reflects emerging perspectives on its therapeutic potential and a shift in social attitudes regarding its use. If the HHS is ultimately successful in reclassifying marijuana, it has the potential to usher in a new era of acceptance and legitimacy for cannabis, particularly in its use as a medical treatment. A federal reclassification would represent a significant departure from the historically restrictive scheduling of marijuana, thus opening the door to further research, increased patient access, and a more nuanced approach to its regulation at both the state and federal levels.

What is the current classification for marijuana?

Although some states have changed their laws regarding cannabis, as many have legalized it or have it medically prescribed, it is still illegal at the federal level. Federal reclassification refers to the process of changing the legal status of a substance, in this case, cannabis. At the federal level, cannabis remains classified as a Schedule 1 controlled substance, meaning that it is classified as a drug with no currently accepted medical use and a high abuse potential. The Department of Health and Human Services recommended marijuana be moved to Schedule III, where drugs with lower perceived risks can be prescribed legally, such as ketamine. Marijuana’s removal from Schedule I would represent the most significant federal reform of this substance in modern history.

There are a couple of things to keep in mind here. The HHS’s recommendation doesn’t automatically deschedule marijuana. In the current state of affairs, medical marijuana is legal in 39 states and recreational marijuana is legal in 23 states. According to federal law, cultivating, producing, and selling cannabis would still be illegal.

Drug Classification Chart
How Drugs are classified in the US
Classification Examples Description
Schedule I
  • Marijuana
  • Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD)
  • Ecstasy (MDMA)
  • Heroin
Schedule 1 drugs are classified as substances that have a high potential for abuse,  no accepted medical use, and are not safe to use under medical supervision.
Schedule II
  • Cocaine 
  • Fentanyl
  • Oxycodone
  • Methamphetamine
  • Adderall
Schedule II drugs are classified as substances that have a high potential for abuse. However, these drugs do have accepted medicinal uses in the United States. The abuse of these types of drugs can lead to extreme dependence both psychologically and physically.
Schedule III
  • Anabolic Steroids
  • Ketamine
  • Testosterone
  • Certain Codeine Mixtures
Schedule III drugs are classified as substances that have accepted medicinal uses and a lower abuse potential than schedule II drugs. If these substances are abused, a moderate physical dependence and high physiological dependence may occur. .
Schedule IV
  • Ambien
  • Valium
  • Xanax
  • Ativan
  • Tramadol
Schedule IV drugs are classified as substances that are accepted medicinally and have a lower abuse potential than schedule II or III drugs. If abuse of these substances does occur, the physical and psychological dependence is limited.
Schedule V
  • Cough Syrup
  • Lomotil
  • Motofen
  • Lyrica
  • Parapectolin
Schedule V drugs are classified as substances that have known medicinal uses and have a low potential for abuse. The physical and physiological dependency associated with potential abuse for these substances is limited.

What does the review process for reclassification entail?

The journey to cannabis reclassification is not as straightforward as it may seem. It’s a complex process, guided by a multi-step review system that involves several federal agencies. Picture it as a high-stakes relay race, where the baton of decision-making passes through the hands of experts, each scrutinizing cannabis from an entirely different angle. So, what exactly does this review process for reclassification entail? Let’s break it down step by step.

Step 1) The FDA uses an “eight-factor analysis” to assess a drug for abuse potential, history of abuse, and scientific evidence of its pharmacological effects.
Step 2) The FDA sends its review to HHS.
Step 3) HHS reviews the FDA’s analysis and then makes recommendations to the DEA.
Step 4) The DEA then conducts its own analysis based on three factors: its potential for abuse, its potential for medical use, and the extent to which it is unsafe or addictive.
Step 5) The DEA will submit its own recommendation in the form of a proposal to the attorney general, who will then make his final ruling.

Are there any previous attempts at reclassifying cannabis?

Attempts to reschedule marijuana within the United States have been rejected repeatedly, illustrating the complexity and contentious nature of the issue. In 2016, the DEA denied a request to change marijuana’s federal classification made by two democratic governors during the Obama administration.

The DEA made this decision based on a set of criteria outlined in the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), which forms the foundation for drug scheduling in the United States. A number of factors were considered, including the possibility of abuse, the presence of accepted medical uses, and the drug’s safety profile under medical supervision.

The DEA cited the likelihood of abuse as one of the primary reasons for denying the rescheduling of cannabis. Historically, marijuana was classified as a Schedule I controlled substance, a category reserved for substances considered to have the highest abuse potential and the least accepted medical use. This perspective was grounded in the historical context of marijuana’s classification as a Schedule I controlled substance.

What are the advantages of cannabis reclassification?

The reclassification of cannabis at the federal level in the United States could bring a number of benefits. Here are some of the general advantages associated with such a change:

Access to Banking and Financial Services: Reclassifying cannabis could normalize its status in the financial sector. Reclassification could open doors to traditional banking, making it easier for businesses to manage their finances securely and efficiently.

Research Opportunities: Cannabis is known for its potential medical and therapeutic benefits, but federal restrictions hinder comprehensive research. Reclassification could remove these barriers, encouraging scientific exploration of cannabis on a deeper level. This research could lead to the development of new medicines and treatments.

Healthcare Access: Reducing cannabis classification may allow healthcare professionals to prescribe it to patients more readily. Patients could benefit from a broader range of treatment options, potentially improving their quality of life.

Reduction in Criminalization: A change in cannabis classification could lead to fewer arrests and incarcerations for non-violent cannabis-related offenses.

Consumer Safety and Product Quality: Standardized cannabis testing protocols would likely be established by federal oversight for all products, regardless of whether they are intended for medical or recreational use. These protocols would dictate the specific tests cannabis products must undergo, such as potency, purity, and safety.

Reduced Stigma: Federal reclassification could reduce the stigma associated with cannabis use. This could lead to more open conversations about its potential benefits and drawbacks, promoting a more informed and rational approach to cannabis policy.

State-Level Impact: Reclassification might encourage more states to consider legalizing or expanding cannabis programs, knowing federal interference would be less likely. This could lead to a more consistent and regulated cannabis industry nationwide.

What are the disadvantages of cannabis reclassification?

It’s important to consider both the advantages and disadvantages of cannabis reclassification. The list included below does not necessarily represent inherent disadvantages to cannabis reclassification itself. Instead, it may be attributed to the potential complexities and challenges associated with implementing such a change. 

Incomplete Regulation: If reclassification leads to federal legalization without comprehensive regulatory frameworks in place, it could create a gap in the regulatory framework. Product quality, safety, and distribution could suffer if states have varying regulations.

Market Saturation: An influx of upcoming businesses in the cannabis industry could lead to market oversaturation. A rise in competition may lead to price wars, which could negatively impact the profitability of cannabis companies.

Federal Bureaucracy: Federal regulations can be slow and bureaucratic. A delay in the establishment of clear rules and regulations could hinder the legal cannabis market’s growth.

Quality Control: While federal oversight can improve quality control, it may also result in higher compliance costs for businesses, potentially increasing product prices for consumers.

Limited State Autonomy: If federal regulations become more restrictive, they could limit individual states’ autonomy in regulating their medical marijuana programs. States might have to adjust their existing programs to comply with federal standards.

Potential Changes in Product Availability: Federal reclassification could lead to changes in medical cannabis product availability. Specific regulations could affect the types of products and strains available to patients.

Insurance Challenges: While federal reclassification might open the door for insurance coverage, it could also lead to insurance companies imposing specific requirements or limitations on coverage, potentially creating challenges for patients in navigating insurance processes.

What does this mean for Medical Marijuana Patients in Florida?

It’s vital to remember that the specific impacts of cannabis reclassification in Florida would hinge on the final DEA ruling, the subsequent regulatory framework, and how Florida chooses to adapt its medical marijuana program. If cannabis is reclassified, the way doctors provide recommendations may change and prescriptions may replace the current “recommendations” that are being given. As with any significant policy change, there will be a period of adjustment and adaptation for both patients and healthcare providers. Staying informed about these changes and actively participating in the dialogue around medical cannabis policy is essential. The length of this process is unknown, but the hope is that this reclassification is thoroughly investigated and that recent research is taken into consideration during the process.


Drug Scheduling. DEA. (2018).,Schedule%20II.

Joy, J. E., Watson, S. J., & Benson, J. A. (1999). Appendix C: Scheduling Definitions. In Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base. essay, National Academy Press.

Lewis, M. J. (2016). Denial of Petition To Initiate Proceedings to Reschedule Marijuana. Federal Register.

NORML. (2023, September 6). 35 Years Ago Today: DEA’s Chief Administrative Law Judge Ruled That Cannabis Should be Reclassified Under Federal Law.

Ovalle, D., Shepherd, K., & McGinley, L. (2023, September 1). Possible easing of marijuana restrictions could have major implications. The Washington Post.

Peltz, J. (2023, September 1). US regulators might change how they classify marijuana. Here’s what that would mean. AP News.

The Sentinel Editorial Board. (2023, September 10). EDITORIAL: Recent federal move to reclassify cannabis benefits everyone . Sentinel Colorado.

Previous Post