California Officially Calls On Feds To Reclassify Marijuana

Marijuana leaf.

Last November, California voters approved a ballot measure to legalize marijuana. Now, the state’s lawmakers are formally calling on the federal government to reclassify cannabis.

“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, therefore allowing the legal research and development of marijuana or cannabis for medical use,” reads a joint resolution approved by the California Assembly on Thursday with a vote of 60 to 10.

The Controlled Substance Act’s Schedule I — the most restrictive category — is supposed to be reserved for drugs with no medical value and a high potential for abuse. Researchers have long complained that marijuana’s classification there creates additional hurdles that don’t exist for studies on other substances.

Heroin and LSD are also in Schedule I alongside cannabis, yet cocaine and methamphetamine are classified in the less restrictive Schedule II category.

The California resolution, which previously passed the state Senate by a margin of 34 to two, also calls for changing federal law to allow for “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.”

Because of ongoing federal prohibition, many banks are reluctant to provide financial services to marijuana businesses. That means most operate on a cash-only basis, which makes them targets for robberies and presents difficulties in the collection of tax revenue on their sales.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee expressed concern that marijuana’s current Schedule I status impedes research, and directed federal agencies to issue a report on the topic.

Under California law, joint resolutions don’t require gubernatorial action. The text of the cannabis measure will now be transmitted to President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. It will also be sent to California’s two U.S. senators and the state’s 53-member U.S. House delegation.

In 1996, California became the first state to allow medical cannabis.

Story by Tom Angell