California Legislature Urges Congress to Reschedule Cannabis

By Benjie Cooper

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Senators Jeff Stone (R), Scott Weiner (D), John Moorlach (R), and Assemblymember Tom Lackey (R) introduced a bill on February 21, 2017 known as the California Senate Joint Resolution 5 or SJR-5. As written, the measure requests that the United States Congress pass and the President sign legislation to remove cannabis from its current Schedule I status and place it in an alternative category.

The document begins by highlighting the government’s definition of a Schedule I narcotic; something that the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 defines as a substance that has a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical uses. Cannabis currently shares the same classification as heroin, methaqualone, GHB, and bath salts.

The authors explain that groups around the world have been studying and researching cannabis for years and have demonstrated that it has a wide variety of medicinal uses. They mention that California voters approved both recreational and medical marijuana and go on to cite conditions for which it provides relief including glaucoma, epilepsy, migraines, cancer, and other types of pain and anxiety.

The document goes on to express concerns about the criminality of cannabis on a federal level and the repercussions that can result from its cultivation, possession, or use.

The next item addressed is the issue of the cannabis industry’s inability to access the traditional banking system that the rest of the country uses and the financial problems that the situation creates. Since marijuana businesses are not eligible for a banking routing number, they are usually forced to work with cash which creates hurdles and dangers of its own.

The bill states that by prohibiting marijuana businesses from using the banking system, federal laws impede state and local governments from “doing business with potential clients cultivating, researching, selling, or utilizing marijuana or cannabis and its derivatives, therefore making marijuana commerce very difficult.” They go on to say that this also prevents state and local governments from properly monitoring the industry and collecting taxes; costing them “hundreds of millions of dollars in lost tax income.”

The last problem addressed is the issue of cannabis research. Due to the plant’s Schedule I status, all marijuana studies in the United States are conducted exclusively within federal agencies. The bill points out that by prohibiting independent research institutes from studying marijuana, the federal government is preventing the discovery of new pharmacological properties of the plant which might improve some peoples’ quality of life.

The authors of the bill conclude by urging 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, therefore allowing the legal research and development of marijuana or cannabis for medical use and allowing for the legal commerce of marijuana or cannabis so that businesses dealing with marijuana or cannabis can use traditional banks or financial institutions.”

The bill passed through the Senate with a vote of 34-2 earlier this year and on September 14, 2017 it made it through the Assembly with a final vote of 60-10. According to the text, copies of the measure will be going to the President, Vice President, Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Senate Majority Leader, and to each Senator and Representative from California in the US Congress.