Schedule III Status Will Promote Cannabis Research and Reduce Stigma — But What About THCs?

The DEA’s rescheduling proposal for cannabis may not yet include THC and other cannabinoids, creating uncertainty. Including THC in the rescheduling is crucial for comprehensive research and understanding of cannabinoids’ medical applications.

Below, we go beyond the headlines by discussing this important question.

Introduction: A Historical Shift

On April 30, 2024, the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) proposed reclassifying cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule III. This marks a significant shift in federal drug policy, the first of its kind in half a century. This reclassification follows recommendations from the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in August 2023, and reflects a broader shift in federal cannabis policy.

For a deeper dive into the decision and its historical context, you can read more on BVE’s previous articles:

This move follows a series of related policy changes:

  • SAFE Banking Act: Passed in 2019, it provides safe harbor for banking activities between state-regulated cannabis companies and federally insured banks.
  • October 2022: President Biden requested a review of federal cannabis law and pardoned thousands convicted of federal cannabis possession.
  • SAFER Banking Act: Passed by the Senate Banking Committee on April 11, 2024, it may soon become law.
  • State Laws: 38 states have legalized medicinal cannabis, and 24 have legalized recreational use.

Implications of Rescheduling

With cannabis moved to Schedule III, doctors will be able to prescribe it to patients.

The reclassification could reduce the stigma associated with cannabis, differentiating it from more dangerous Schedule I substances like heroin and PCP.

Additionally, it simplifies the licensing process for research laboratories, promoting more clinical trials and studies that were previously hindered by the stringent requirements for Schedule I substances.

Research and Development Opportunities

Rescheduling cannabis to Schedule III will alleviate the historical burden on cannabis research, facilitating progress in understanding its medical applications.

Laboratories will face fewer regulatory hurdles, enabling more comprehensive research and potentially accelerating the development of new cannabis-based therapies.

Will the rescheduling apply to THC?

A critical question remains: Will the rescheduling apply to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and other cannabinoids, or only to botanical cannabis?

The DEA’s list of controlled substances includes separate entries for “marihuana,” “marihuana extract,” and “tetrahydrocannabinols.” Clarification on this point is crucial, as the rescheduling of THC alongside cannabis could significantly close the research gaps created by years of prohibition.

THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis, plays a pivotal role in both its therapeutic and recreational uses. Including THC in the rescheduling process is essential for a complete understanding of cannabinoid function that includes the most widely used member of the class of compounds.

Many research groups have been limited in their studies due to THC’s Schedule I status, leading to a significant gap in the research data.

Conclusion: Looking Forward

The DEA’s proposal to reschedule cannabis is a monumental step forward, but the path ahead requires careful consideration and public engagement. As the rescheduling process unfolds, it is vital to address whether THC and other cannabinoids will be included to ensure comprehensive research and development.

By Mike McCormick, PhD

BVE Venture Partner
Biochemist & Life Sciences IP Specialist

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