As the 2020 presidential election approaches, many democratic candidates have taken a pro-legalization stance on marijuana. This issue seems fairly black and white, but there are actually many differences in opinion from candidate to candidate.
Some Democratic candidates have supported full federal legalization of marijuana for both medicinal and recreational purposes. Other Democrats running in 2020 want to leave the question of legalization up to the states — this is also President Donald Trump’s stance. Additionally, some candidates have supported decriminalization as opposed to full-scale legalization and some have announced plans to reschedule marijuana to Schedule 2, which has the potential to destroy the cannabis industry in the U.S. as it exists today.
Marijuana is currently classified as a Schedule 1 drug by the Drug Enforcement Agency, meaning the federal government currently sees no medical benefit to the use of marijuana and believes there is a high risk for abuse of the drug. However, following the war on drugs and a shift in American opinion, the government has eased their crackdown on marijuana, even going so far as to allow individual states to dictate marijuana legalization laws on their own.
Marijuana is currently legal in 33 states and the District of Columbia either for medical use, recreational use or both because the federal government has left states with the choice to either legalize marijuana or to enforce laws prohibiting cannabis. With marijuana legalization a hot-button topic in the upcoming election, the number of legal states could drastically change, for better or worse.
Although a large number of Democratic candidates have supported some form of marijuana decriminalization or legalization, former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign has announced that, if elected, he plans to reschedule marijuana from Schedule 1 to Schedule 2.
But the rescheduling of marijuana would completely change the dynamics of the marijuana industry. Marijuana legislation and regulation varies based on what each state’s legislators view to be safe and practical in order to assure users have a safe experience.
This variance can stem from differences in lab testing standards, product strength or packaging design. Despite the regulations and the high cost of licensing, marijuana manufacturers still have freedom in the creation of their products; this freedom could vanish if marijuana is rescheduled to Schedule 2.
Schedule 2 drugs are defined by the DEA as drugs that have a high potential for abuse and addiction among users. In addition, the drugs found in Schedule 2 are available legally, but only under strict supervision and testing by the Food and Drug Administration and can only be taken under strict supervision from a doctor and dispensed from licensed pharmacies.
As a result, the federal government would strip the ability to dispense marijuana as a medicine and a recreational substance from marijuana manufacturers that already exist in legal states across the nation. The rescheduling would also result in years of lengthy testing conducted by the FDA, which would inevitably impact patients that rely on marijuana as medication.
Biden’s plan to reschedule marijuana is a step in the wrong direction for the future of legalization. Candidates should focus on ending the war on drugs and pointless efforts in marijuana law enforcement to shift towards full scale legalization that can be taxed and regulated.