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State Lawmakers’ Group Urges Feds to Deschedule Cannabis

August 7, 2017
In a sign that state lawmakers across the US are warming to the idea of legalization, the National Conference of State Legislatures is urging the federal government to remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and allow states to set their own policies around the plant.


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Not only would such a move respect the will of individual states, the group argues in a resolution adopted Monday, it would also improve public safety by easing cannabis businesses’ access to banking services. Because federally insured banks can face penalties for working with the industry, many companies still operate in cash, making them a prime target for theft and robbery.

“State legislators and the vast majority of voters agree that marijuana policy should be left to the states.”
Karen O’Keefe, Marijuana Policy Project

The resolution says the group “believes that the Controlled Substances Act should be amended to remove cannabis from scheduling thus enabling financial institutions the ability to provide banking services to cannabis related businesses.”

It’s the third time in as many years that the National Conference of State Legislators (NCSL) has called for cannabis reform at the federal level. Last year the group approved a resolution calling for the removal of cannabis from Schedule I of the CSA, and a 2015 resolution urged that “federal laws, including the Controlled Substances Act, should be amended to explicitly allow states to set their own marijuana and hemp policies without federal interference.”

But while the latest resolution goes further than past iterations have, the NCSL emphasized that the document isn’t meant as a full-blown endorsement of legalization.

The group “acknowledges that each of its members will have differing and sometimes conflicting views of cannabis and how to regulate it,” the resolution continues, “but in allowing each state to craft its own regulations we may increase transparency, public safety, and economic development where it is wanted.”


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Legalization advocates applauded the measure as a sensible step forward.

“States should not have to worry about the federal government interfering with their marijuana policy choices,” Karen O’Keefe, director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a statement about the resolution. “State legislators and the vast majority of voters agree that marijuana policy should be left to the states.”

O’Keefe added that “legitimate, taxpaying marijuana businesses should not have to face the difficulties of operating on a cash-only basis. Allowing banks to offer them financial services will be good for the industry and benefit public safety.”


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A poll conducted last month by SurveyUSA for the advocacy organization Marijuana Majority found that 76% of Americans support individual states being able to make their own laws around cannabis use and sales. In a Quinnipiac survey released in April, 94% of Americans said they support allowing adult patients to use doctor-recommended medical cannabis, while 60% said they support adult-use legalization.

As Marijuana Majority founder Tom Angell noted Monday, the NCSL also considered a separate resolution that endorsed the idea that “medical cannabis can be an effective tool in combating the  national opioid crisis.”

The resolution, which the organization’s Health and Human Services Committee said it will vote on later this year, argues that “there is ample evidence that states that have medical cannabis programs have accomplished a significant reduction in the number of opioid related deaths with resulting fewer hospitalizations related to opioid related deaths in states that have passed medical cannabis programs.”

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Ben Adlin

Ben Adlin is a Seattle-based writer and editor who specializes in cannabis politics and law. He was a news editor for Leafly from 2015-2019. Follow him on Twitter: @badlin

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  • MikeParent

    Govt says Sched l is untenable. 

     “Based on evidence currently available the Schedule I classification is not tenable; it is not accurate that cannabis has no medical value, or I information on safety is lacking.”
    The Dea is being sued for misscheduling cannabis

    • Rob Stevens


  • Two Bears

    The damn Govt. Has a patent on Marijuana.

    Why on earth is the plant schedule when Marinol (full of THC) a schedule 3 drug?

    There are about a million people need marijuana to have a decent quality of life. I am one such person.

    I have Crohns disease.

    Without MMJ I had flares every 2-3 days. I had pain you dont want to imagine, stomach feeling as if would explode. I was weak and run down all the time and didnt feel up to doing much of anything, and in Depends for uncontrolled diarrhea.

    4 years ago a Neighbor heard me scream from the pain. She slipped me two grams of weed. I have Asthma and did not want to smoke it so made a tincture in rum.

    Every night i had some tincture before bed. Imagine my surprise when 3 weeks later i realized i had gone three weeks without a single flare!

    Skip ahead 4 yesrs.

    Now i micro dose 13-16 mg a day and that is all i need to keep my gut health from bouncing between to extremes. My last flare was 2/13/2017. YES ALMOST 6 months ago!

    Marijuana nothing of short gave me my life back!

    • FCN

      God Bless you, cannabis cured my bad guts too.

      • Two Bears

        I tell my story to give people in the same shoes as we are some hope.

        Marijuana is a God Send.

    • Liz

      You can be sure the reason the Feds have the patents on medical marijuana is because Big Pharm PAID them to do it. Once legitimate testing is done in this country, like they do in Israel, it will bankrupt many pharmaceutical companies because pot is NOT addictive, does NOT have the side effects and is a natural way to cure a host of medical issues.

  • Larry342516

    It seems that the people of each State have spoken, and it is time Mr. Trump stepped in and stopped Sessions’ stupidity about cannabis and hemp. Mr. Trump the people have spoken, and you are doing nothing to help. You do want to get re-elected to finish the work you promised the voters??? You promised us to let the States decide on cannabis and hemp, and now you are doing nothing to help. Mr. Sessions is doing everything to make you look bad. Step in and help us Mr. Trump.

    • TweetyBird

      What do you expect from someone who lies every time he opens his mouth? There’s a better chance (none whatsoever) of Mexico paying for his stupid wall than trump ever being sensible on marijuana. If it doesn’t affect him, he simply doesn’t care.

  • Grow Your Own

    The move to Deschedule Cannabis on the Federal Controlled Substances Act Of 1970 would also remove the “Urinalysis Test” for Cannabis in the Workplace.

  • randolini

    Mr. Trump, since you hate everything Mr. Obama tried to do, you should do what he didn’t have the cajones to do and declassify cannabis to the same schedule as alcohol and tobacco. Think of the jobs and taxes this would offer. If cannabis has no medical uses, explain why they allow big pharma to sell Marinol, a synthetic Cannabinoid that is pure THC and leaves it users in a fog. It’s time to wake up and smell the turpenes.

    • Rob Stevens

      Trump needs a democratic congress with young fresh faces, then it’ll happen. the red states and the electoral college have US in a Full Nelson.

    • Rob Stevens

      except Alcohol and Nicotine products are poisons they let US kill ourselves with. Cannabis is about God, the earth and self-preservation.

  • Gerry Bedore

    The comments made by Jeff Sessions suggest that he is not informed about cannabis nor is he or his staff up to speed with the current research. It is scary that the AG does not see the need to inform himself through objective evidence before forming an opinion. Remove the biased and poorly constructed studies of the past (NIDA) and get into the current research. Cannabis is not a problem, the schedule 1 classification and politicians in big pharms back pocket is the problem. People are dieing and suffering because of these ill formed opinions. The stigma phenomenon is real and misguiding the decisions of many people in the treatments they seek for healing, comfort, and wellness. Patrick Kennedy is simply wrong. Cannabis is not throwing gas on the fire, cannabis prevents many fires. For all of those who have used cannabis for healing and wellness, God Bless You! I am sorry that this is not the America I grew up in. We did not sell out, imprison, or allow our loved ones to suffer for money. Who does this??? Make America Great Again, make informed decisions. What does the evidence show us? Duh!!

    • Scooter Bell

      Thanks Gerry – agreed! I hate to say it, I was also on the other side of the fence before finding out the facts with marijuana. I drank the Kool-aid and believed the war on drugs, etc. If people could really see how beneficial marijuana is based on facts, it would change minds – I’m a full-blown convert for MJ.
      How about taking small steps and Making America Free again versus Great? We’ll work on that later… :]

  • FlunkedAgain

    In the Early 1980s, I had an assignment at Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital in NYC. The office I was in was not in the Hospital. One day one of my colleagues had to go to a meeting in the Hospital Building, and when he came back he said they were having Pot Parties in the patients’ rooms. It’s well known now that Marijuana is an effective Appetite Stimulant, and/or Pain Killer. I can attest to both, but not for the same reasons.

  • Rob Stevens

    what about cockamamie Florida? are we just sitting ducks for the next hurricane season?