It’s the dawn of a new day in Washington, DC, and the cannabis community has a reason to be optimistic about making progress towards ending federal prohibition. Fresh off of the momentum of passing the historic MORE Act last year, there is hope that the US House will not only pass another legalization bill, but will actually improve upon the MORE Act, which contained some restrictive language on licensing. The very first cannabis reform bill of the 2021 legislative session is by Representative Greg Steube (R-FL), an identical bill to one he sponsored last year. Steube’s proposal would move cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).
It would, for example, protect federal employees who use marijuana from a Reagan-era executive order that defines illegal drugs as Schedule I or II substances.
And only drugs under Schedules I and II are affected by the tax provision known as “280E” that blocks cannabis companies from deducting businesses expenses from their taxes.
Reclassification would also make scientific research easier, since cannabis’s current Schedule I status creates additional hurdles for studies.
Ending the 280E IRS code that arbitrarily and unfairly taxes state licensed cannabis companies at 70% or, would be huge for the industry, especially for the small craft boutiques like Kind Leaf, that are working hard to survive the competition from multinational corporations. Coupled with a provision that normalizes banking services for cannabis companies, Rep. Steube’s bill would be a huge step forward. As Marijuana Moment notes, removing cannabis from the CSA’s schedule is preferred and there could be regulatory concerns about rescheduling, so other bills are certainly better, this proposal is a great step in the right direction, even though rescheduling isn’t the right policy change. Just to reiterate and make crystal clear: Schedule III for cannabis is not a good idea and this bill should not pass as-is, but it’s benefits, such as repealing 280e and removing restrictions regarding scientific research should be enacted.
Our political system isn’t fixed by one election and we can’t be complacent. Let’s continue to work hard to ensure that more and more elected officials represent the will of the people on cannabis, criminal justice reform, and drug policy in the years to come.