Northwest Florida congressman Matt Gaetz introduced legislation on the House floor Thursday that would remove marijuana from the federal government’s list of Schedule I controlled substances.
Gaetz, a Republican, partnered with Central Fla. congressman Darren Soto, a Democrat, on the bipartisan bill, which Gaetz says would make it easier for ill patients and scientific and medical researchers to obtain marijuana for medical use.
Since 1970, marijuana has been included on the Schedule I list, which includes substances which “have no currently accepted medical use in the United States, a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision, and a high potential for abuse.” Other Schedule I drugs include heroin, cocaine, and MDMA, also known as ecstasy.
Gaetz’s bill would reclassify marijuana as a Schedule III drug. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, Schedule III controlled substances “have a potential for abuse less than substances in Schedules I or II and abuse may lead to moderate or low physical dependence or high psychological dependence.” Other Schedule III drugs include ketamine and anabolic steroids.
A majority of U.S. states have already taken steps towards legalizing the medical or, in some cases, recreational use of marijuana. Currently, 28 states including Guam, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia have adopted laws legalizing marijuana to some extent.
Recent polling suggest 93% of Americans support legalizing doctor-prescribed medical marijuana, Gaetz said.
“This drug should not be in the same category as heroin and LSD, and we do not need to continue with a policy that turns thousands of young people into felons every year,” said Gaetz. “Nor do we need to punish the millions of people who are sick and seeking medical help – from pain, from muscle wasting, from chemotherapy-induced nausea.”
71 percent of Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2016 to legalize medical marijuana for patients with certain debilitating conditions.
“Floridians have spoken and Medical Marijuana is the law of the land. It’s now time for the federal government to recognize this emerging law and the well-known medical benefits of marijuana” said Soto.
Gaetz said reclassifying marijuana would make it easier to conduct research into marijuana’s medical uses and would benefit local economies and small businesses. Small businesses in the marijuana industry would finally have the legal ability to meet the needs of patients, Gaetz said, and the legal status would lead to more businesses receiving loans and banking services from financial institutions.
During his time as a Florida state representative, Gaetz successfully sponsored several medical marijuana bills, including the 2014 “Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act,” which opened the door for medical marijuana in Florida by legalizing a low-THC marijuana oil extract for use by terminally ill patients.