A recent poll indicates that almost one-third of marijuana consumers nationwide would return to purchasing from illegal sources if marijuana were to be rescheduled without preserving legal state marketplaces. The survey, conducted by a website that facilitates medical cannabis physician evaluations, involved nearly 800 respondents.
NuggMD.com reported that its survey findings showed that if cannabis was rescheduled, restricting its legal access to FDA-approved prescription medications, 32% of participants would head to the black market. An estimated 55% of respondents preferred using pharmacies to obtain cannabis, indicating a large preference for legal sources.
Last year, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) made a recommendation to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), urging the agency to reclassify marijuana from Schedule I to III of the CSA. However, rescheduling would not automatically grant cannabis the status of a legitimate prescription medication. This is because the FDA adopts a distinct drug-approval process and typically excludes botanical substances as prescription drugs.
Despite this, the poll explores how cannabis users might react if their only access is through pharmacies, treating cannabis similarly to other Schedule III drugs. Drugs in this category are usually prescribed and available through pharmacies or under a physician’s supervision. The survey also provides insight into how users feel about possible marijuana schedule changes. Although 47% of respondents think that rescheduling wouldn’t impact their access, a sizable number — 77% of respondents — would rather purchase dispensary cannabis than depend on FDA-approved pharmacies.
Additionally, the poll reveals opinions about federal regulation. Significantly, 69% of respondents prefer separate state markets to a single federal market, and 85% of respondents support removing marijuana from the CSA rather than moving it to Schedule III.
Consumers also express a reluctance to involve the FDA or pharmaceutical companies in marijuana regulation, signaling a strong trust in state-controlled markets. Interestingly, a significant portion is willing to obtain marijuana, even if it means ignoring legal restrictions.
Although reclassifying cannabis from Schedule I to III could facilitate medical use and encourage the creation of FDA-approved medications, the process of doing so takes time. State-licensed dispensaries will probably continue to be accessible for both recreational and medical consumers until then.
There is also skepticism about products, such as raw cannabis flower, gaining approval. This skepticism highlights the need for substitute medical-grade products that can be purchased from pharmacies.
Despite potential changes, legal state markets are expected to remain, providing accessibility and lowering reliance on the black market.
It remains to be seen how the implementation of the expected rescheduling of marijuana will affect companies such as Innovative Industrial Properties Inc. (NYSE: IIPR) that had found a lucrative niche serving plant-touching cannabis companies.
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