The Effect of Rescheduling Marijuana in Pennsylvania

The FDA Considers Rescheduling Marijuana

It was recently reported that the federal Food and Drug Administration is considering rescheduling Marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule III. If the reschedule happens, (and it is still very much up in the air right now) the decision will change a lot. Whether Pennsylvania follows suit or not, however, is a separate question.

Understanding FDA Drug Schedules

The FDA, among its other duties, schedules or categorizes drugs. There are three factors that the FDA considers when it categorizes drugs:

  1. Legitimate medical uses
  2. Potential for abuse
  3. Potential for addiction.

The Five Schedule Categories the FDA Chooses Between

Schedule I is for drugs with “no currently accepted medical use and high potential for abuse.” Among the drugs currently listed on Schedule I are LSD, Marijuana, and peyote.

Schedule II is for drugs with “high potential for abuse, with use potentially leading to severe addiction.” Among those drugs currently listed on Schedule II are Vicodin, fentanyl, Adderall, and Ritalin.

Schedule III is for drugs with “moderate to low potential for addiction.” This includes codeine, ketamine, and steroids.

Schedule IV is for drugs with a low potential for abuse or addiction. They include Xanax, Valium, and Ativan.

Schedule V is for drugs with a lower potential for abuse and limited quantities of certain narcotics. For example, Robitussin AC, Lyrica, and Parepectolin.

Recategorizing Marijuana onto the FDA’s Schedule III, if it happens, will legitimize the medical marijuana industry. But it won’t directly fix specific state-law issues.

Pennsylvania’s Drug Schedules

Pennsylvania maintains its own categories of drugs. Those are enacted by the legislature (the General Assembly). That means that the General Assembly must change the categorization by amending the schedules. Marijuana (there, spelled “marihuana”) remains on Pennsylvania’s Schedule I.

A large problem for medical marijuana users is the Catch-22 presented by the DUI law. As this blog has previously covered, any amount of a metabolite of a Schedule I drug in a driver’s blood could lead to a DUI charge. 75 Pa. C.S. § 3802(d)(1)(iii). Authorized use is no defense. 75 Pa. C.S. § 3810. Marijuana metabolites can remain in a user’s blood for an extended time.

Will the Proposed Changes Fix the Metabolite DUI Problem?

In a word, no. Although it is a step in the right direction, the DUI law follows the Pennsylvania drug schedule. See, e.g., 75 Pa. C.S. § 3802(d)(1)(i) (“Schedule I controlled substance, as defined in the act of April 14, 1972, . . . known as The Controlled Substance, Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act”). A legislative fix for the DUI law, therefore, remains necessary.

If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges relating to DUI or drugs including marijuana, you need an experienced criminal defense lawyer in your corner. Call Pyfer Reese and ask to talk to Dan Bardo.

Non-legal sources:

Disclaimer: This blog is meant to be educational only and is in no way legal advice or direction. To obtain personalized legal help, contact a professional.

Posted in News on by Pyfer Reese.