January 2024 National Cannabis News: DEA Considers Rescheduling, Expungements On The Rise

A researcher wearing a hair net looks into a microscope. This illustrative photo accompanies a January 2024 national news roundup, including a story about medical cannabis research funding.

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As we find ourselves in a new year, the cannabis industry is ablaze with anticipation for continued innovation and growth, and we’re starting off with some pretty big headlines. 

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) is considering a recommendation to reschedule cannabis as a Schedule III drug. Meanwhile, states are expunging millions of cannabis arrests and convictions. The UFC joins the ranks of professional sports organizations removing cannabis from the banned substances list. Finally, Johns Hopkins University is making a big investment in medical cannabis research. Let’s take a closer look at some of these exciting developments and what they mean for the cannabis industry.

DEA considers rescheduling cannabis

The DEA has officially disclosed its ongoing evaluation of the classification of cannabis under the U.S. Controlled Substances Act (CSA). This revelation comes just days after the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) publicly acknowledged the medical utility of cannabis, marking a pivotal moment in the reconsideration of its legal status. 

Previously, HHS recommended rescheduling cannabis as a Schedule III drug under the CSA. Such a move would have a big impact on the cannabis industry, including availing state legal cannabis businesses to tax deductions currently off the table, thanks to IRS Code Section 280E. Section 280E does not apply to Schedule III cannabis businesses, so rescheduling could mean healthier profit margins for plant-touching cannabis businesses. 

While there’s no confirmation on what’s to come, this development signals a potentially transformative shift in the regulatory framework surrounding cannabis. It’s worth noting that rescheduling is different from legalization and decriminalization, but it would still represent a significant step forward in federal cannabis reform.

States have expunged more than 2.3 million cannabis records since 2018 

A new report from the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) announced that state and local U.S. courts have expunged or sealed the records of an estimated 2.3 million cannabis cases since 2018. Over the past few years, 24 states and Washington, D.C. have enacted laws establishing explicit pathways to expunge, seal, annul, or set aside records related to low-level cannabis convictions. 

“Hundreds of thousands of Americans unduly carry the burden and stigma of a past conviction for behavior that most Americans, and a growing number of states, no longer consider to be a crime,” NORML’s Deputy Director Paul Armentano said. “Our sense of justice and our principles of fairness demand that public officials and the courts move swiftly to right the past wrongs of cannabis prohibition and criminalization.”

Some states, like California, Connecticut, Illinois, Missouri, and New Jersey, have implemented automatic reviews of past records, notifying eligible individuals for expungements. Other states like Arizona and Massachusetts required individuals seeking legal relief to petition to courts. 

UFC officially removes cannabis from list of banned substances

In a groundbreaking move, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) declared on January 4, 2024, that cannabis is no longer a prohibited substance for fighters. While a 2021 policy change did give UFC fights already some protection from penalties related to THC, the new policy removed it from the banned list altogether. 

The UFC’s new Anti-Doping Policy emphasizes that these modifications are rooted in historical findings, acknowledging the changing perception of cannabis as it is removed from the list of banned substances list for athletes.

“UFC’s goal for the Anti-Doping Policy is to be the best, most effective, and most progressive anti-doping program in all of professional sports,” UFC Chief Business Officer Hunter Campbell said in a press release on Thursday. “UFC is proud of the advancements we have made with our anti-doping program over the past eight years, and we will continue to maintain an independently administered drug-testing program that ensures all UFC athletes are competing under fair and equal circumstances,” he added.

Other athletic organizations that have either reevaluated or removed cannabis or CBD from its list of banned substances include the NCAA and the MLB

Johns Hopkins University to allocate $10 million to medical cannabis studies 

John Hopkins University has embarked on a groundbreaking medical cannabis study, allocating a substantial $10 million grant from the National Institute on Drugs Abuse (NIDA) to fuel its Cannabis and Health Research Initiative. The study aims to examine the efficacy and impact of cannabis therapy by tracking 10,000 medical cannabis patients over the course of a year. The research will delve into aspects like dosage, consumption methods, product competition, drug interactions, and treatment details. 

“Our mission with this research is to understand the health impacts of therapeutic cannabis use,” said Ryan Vandrey, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, as well as one of the creators behind the initiative. “We hope to provide some starting points for understanding what types of products may or may not be helpful and what types of products may be more risky for use in certain populations or for certain therapeutic purposes.”

Charting the 2024 cannabis course  

As we step into 2024, the cannabis industry is poised for a year of evolution and progress. As the changing tides create an atmosphere of anticipation and transformation, staying up to date on big headlines remains an important part of growing your business with purpose. CWCBExpo provides a platform for stay informed and connected with the dynamic shifts and the cannabis community. Here’s to a year of growth, learning, connecting and embracing change.

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