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Federal health officials pushing to reclassify marijuana as lower risk drug

Posted at 10:39 PM, Aug 31, 2023

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is asking the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to loosen restrictions on marijuana by reclassifying the drug.

The HHS is recommending that marijuana be lowered to a Schedule 3 drug instead of a Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substances Act.

The DEA currently classifies marijuana with other drugs like heroin, LSD, and ecstasy as Schedule 1, defining them as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Schedule 2 drugs include cocaine, meth and fentanyl, while Schedule 3 drugs include anabolic steroids, ketamine, and Tylenol with codeine. The DEA classifies drugs based on their potential for abuse, potential for medical use, and how addictive they are.

Lowering the classification of marijuana to Schedule 3 means cannabis businesses would no longer be subject to an IRS tax code outlawing certain tax deductions.

Karlie Van Arnam, general manager of Pure Medical in Colorado Springs, said dispensaries cannot write off certain income tax expenses that other small businesses can.

"Cannabis companies are just getting crushed under a huge weight of federal tax burden," she said. "For instance, the rent on the store, the payroll to pay the people that work here, the utilities to keep the lights on. All of that stuff we are denied deducting on our business tax return," she said.

Van Arnam said she is in favor of reclassifying marijuana, and believes Schedule 3 is a more appropriate classification.

"To purport that cannabis is more physically addicting and causes more bodily harm than fentanyl is ignorant at best and irresponsible at at worst."

However, Colorado Springs Councilmember Dave Donelson said the reclassification is a step toward legalizing the drug on a federal level, which he said is not a good idea.

“I think it's a bad day for our country. If that happens," he said. “We're just putting more temptations, more harms in their way. We're not doing things to help our citizens. Our government is now doing things to harm our citizens.”

Right now, 40 states in the U.S. have legalized marijuana to some degree, whether that's recreational, medicinal, or both.

The DEA said it will now initiate its review of the drug. There is no clear timeline of how long the process will take.
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