On Thursday, the California Assembly voted 60 to 10 to declassify weed as a Schedule I drug, becoming the first state in the history of the United States to formally ask the federal government to do so.
The move comes nearly a year after voters in the Golden State passed a ballot to legalize marijuana for recreational use, a measure which will go into effect on the first of next year. The announcement comes after the state senate passed the same resolution at 34 to two.
A Request of Historical Proportions
For the uninitiated, Schedule I drugs are materials defined under the Controlled Substances act as “drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse,” according to the DEA. While the idea that cannabis is extremely physiologically addictive has been thoroughly debunked, it is still currently categorized alongside substances like heroin and LSD.
(To put it into perspective, cannabis as a Schedule I is considered more lethal than OxyContin, fentanyl or cocaine, which are listed as a Schedule II, and ketamine, which is listed as a Schedule III.)
According to California lawmakers, their main concern about their proposed misclassification of cannabis as a Schedule I drug derives from the idea that it has no medical value whatsoever; a notion that, as medicinal dispensaries and doctors nationwide can conclude, is patently false.
“The Legislature urges the Congress of the United States to pass a law to reschedule marijuana or cannabis and its derivatives from a Schedule I drug to an alternative schedule,” the Assembly’s joint resolution declared, “therefore allowing the legal research and development of marijuana or cannabis for medical use.”
Final Hit: California Formally Asks Feds To Reschedule Marijuana
While the notion of declassification might also imply an effort to legitimize cannabis—and in turn the cannabis industry—the stakes are somewhat higher than they first appear.
In their statement, the State Assembly also noted the economic incentives for Schedule I declassification, adding that “the legal commerce of marijuana or cannabis so that businesses dealing with marijuana or cannabis can use traditional banks or financial institutions for their banking needs, which would result in providing a legal vehicle for those businesses to pay their taxes.”
As Forbes noted, the majority of banks in the U.S. are hesitant to fund cannabis-related enterprises due to the complications over state legalization versus federal prohibition. In turn, green rush entrepreneurs are forced to operate on a cash-only basis, which comes with its own set of complications.
Many within the industry are denied basic givens for other business owners, like the ability to open a business account. In an investigative piece published by the Los Angeles Times earlier this year, state Treasurer John Chiang commented on the severity of the issue.
“We are talking about an industry expected to come short of $7 billion beginning in 2018, with expected tax revenues of approximately $1 billion,” he said at the time. “This is trouble waiting to happen.”