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Marijuana Reclassification Moves Forward

Police officer holding marijuana in a plastic bag as evidence near a man in handcuffs who was arrested for possession of marijuana.

As a Schedule I controlled substance, marijuana charges carry harsh legal consequences both federally and in Florida. However, that could potentially change in the future. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is set to reclassify marijuana as a less dangerous drug, marking a historic shift in American drug policy. Marijuana reclassification signifies a change with potential widespread impacts across the United States.

The DEA's proposal is currently being reviewed by the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB). It acknowledges the medical benefits of cannabis and recognizes it as having less potential for abuse compared to other highly dangerous drugs. However, marijuana reclassification doesn't equate to legalization for recreational use.

What is the federal government policy on marijuana?

The federal government currently classifies marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act. This indicates high abuse potential and no accepted medical use. It currently falls into the same category as heroin and LSD. Despite this, enforcement has been inconsistent, especially in states with legalized marijuana. The DEA is considering reclassifying marijuana to Schedule III in recognition of its medical benefits. If this happens, it will be grouped with substances such as ketamine and some anabolic steroids.

Once the OMB approves, the DEA will invite public comments on the plan to move marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule III. This shift follows a recommendation from the Department of Health and Human Services. After the public comment period and a review by an administrative judge, the DEA will publish the final rule.

What is the impact of marijuana reclassification?

In October 2022, President Joe Biden initiated a review of federal marijuana laws and pardoned thousands of Americans convicted of simple possession. Biden also addressed the negative impacts of marijuana convictions on employment, housing, and education opportunities.

This move may resonate with most Americans, as marijuana decriminalization has gained considerable acceptance. A Gallup poll from last fall indicated that 70% of adults support legalization, a significant increase from 30% in 2000.

While Schedule III drugs remain controlled substances, critics argue that rescheduling marijuana isn't necessary and might lead to negative consequences. Former DEA deputy administrator Jack Riley expressed concerns about marijuana being a potential "gateway drug" but acknowledged that reclassification could allow the DEA to focus on more dangerous substances such as fentanyl.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer praised the rescheduling move as historic but expressed the need for further legislative action to fully deschedule cannabis. The marijuana industry, valued at nearly $30 billion, could benefit from reduced tax burdens and eased research restrictions, though federal regulations would still require dispensaries to register with the DEA.

Are Schedule III drugs illegal in the U.S.?

Unlike Schedule I drugs, Schedule III drugs are recognized medically and are regulated. However, Schedule III drugs can only be obtained with a prescription from a licensed healthcare provider. Unauthorized possession, distribution, or manufacturing of these drugs is illegal. On a federal level, violations involving Schedule III substances can result in severe penalties. For example, a first offense of simple possession, both federally and in Florida, can result in prison time, a hefty fine, and other legal consequences.

What legal defense do I have if I'm charged with Schedule III drug possession?

If you're facing Schedule III drug possession charges in Florida, you need an experienced criminal defense lawyer to protect your rights and build a strong defense. Attorney Thomas C. Grajek can devise a strong legal strategy by looking for the following defenses:

  • Lack of knowledge: Attorney Grejek can argue that you didn't know you were in possession of the controlled substance.
  • Prescription defense: If you had a valid prescription for the substance, this can be a strong defense.
  • Entrapment: Law enforcement could have induced you to commit a crime you wouldn't have otherwise committed.
  • Illegal search and seizure: Your charges could be dropped if evidence was obtained in violation of your Fourth Amendment rights.

Facing marijuana charges in Polk County? Get Grajek!

Whether you’re dealing with simple possession, distribution, or manufacturing charges, it’s important to have a knowledgeable attorney by your side. Don’t wait until it’s too late—take the first step toward defending your future. Contact Thomas C. Grajek, Attorney at Law, today to schedule your free consultation. During this consultation, you’ll have the opportunity to discuss your case and learn how an experienced criminal defense attorney can help you build a strong defense. Don't wait—call today and Get Grajek. We have offices in Lakeland and Tampa, FL.

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