What Schedule 1 Means for Cannabis

The conversation about cannabis in political circles has recently been focused around terms like “de-schedule” or “reschedule.” “Schedule 1” or “Schedule 2.” What do these terms mean, though? What, exactly, are the ramifications of the current federal legal status of cannabis?



In 1970 President Nixon signed the Controlled Substances Act regulating drugs in the U.S., partially to comply with international treaties. It authorized the Department of Health and Human Services and the Food and Drug Administration to regulate drugs, tasked the Drug Enforcement Agency to enforce these regulations, and categorized drugs into five tiers, or Schedules.

Schedule 1 is reserved for substances that are so-called “dangerous, with no medical application, and with high potential for abuse.” This includes heroinMDMALSD, and mescaline. Prescriptions cannot be written for anything in Schedule 1.

Schedule 2 is for substances with a high potential for abuse, that may result in high physical dependence, but that have currently accepted medical uses. This includes opiummorphineoxycodonemethamphetaminecodeine, and cocaine. Prescriptions are required for all drugs in this list.

Schedule 3 substances have a lower potential for abuse than the previous two, have accepted medical uses, and have a low to moderate risk of addiction in cases of abuse. Prescriptions are required for Schedule 3 substances including intermediate-acting barbituratesanabolicsteroids, and ketamine.

Schedule 4 is reserved for substances that have lower potential for abuse than the previous three, that have low risk of dependence, and that have accepted medical uses. Prescriptions are required for these drugs which include benzodiazepines (like Xanaxor Klonopin), benzodiazepine-like drugs (like Ambienor Lunesta), and long-acting barbiturates.

Schedule 5 substances have the lowest potential for abuse, low risk of dependence, and accepted medical uses. Prescription medications like coughsuppressantscontaining codeine, and anti-convulsants like Lyricaare in this classification.


Consequences for Cannabis