The Federal Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970, more commonly known as the Controlled Substances Act, is a broad law about controlled substances that makes cannabis and medical marijuana illegal at the Federal Level.  The Law is made up of five schedules that classify drugs as controlled.  The most restrictive level is Schedule 1, which includes drugs that are illegal for prescription, highly addictive, and have no medical use.  Marijuana is included in Schedule 1, along with heroin and ecstasy.

Due to the enormous popularity of marijuana among the public, and its growing base of evidence (both anectdotal and scientific) as an effective medicine for a growing list of symptoms, 30 states plus the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana at the State Level.  Marijuana is developing as a States’ Rights issue, and many States are encouraged to legalize because of the significant new sources of tax revenues from marijuana grow farms and dispensary sales.

At the Federal Level, there have been numerous attempts, by both legislators and advocacy groups, to move marijuana out of Schedule 1 classification to a lower schedule.  The Attorney General can make this change, and would typically consult with the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.  However, to date, the Administration has resisted any such changes in status.

With this conflict in law, all cannabis operations must do business only within the State where it is legal.  Transportation of marijuana product across lines is illegal.  This means cannabis businesses must be in-state only, and not across state lines.  This is leading many growers and dispensaries to establish multiple businesses across the country, each operating only within the state where the substance is legal based on state law.  You can learn more about laws by state here.

Schedules of Controlled Substances

Schedule of Controlled Substances - Federal Level

Source:  National Institutes of Health –

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