Sen. Lee says it may be time to change federal rules for marijuana

20190301 Lee Democrats

Sen. Mike Lee suggested on Friday afternoon that it may be time for the federal government to reclassify marijuana from a Schedule 1 to a Schedule 2 drug in order to reflect America’s changing landscape when it comes to the controlled substance.

During his annual visit with Utah lawmakers, Lee noted that a majority of states have legalized marijuana in some way, but the federal government hasn’t kept up.

“Keeping cannabis as a schedule 1 drug is no longer realistic,” said Lee to House Democrats.. “We have to do something federally.”

Utah legalized the use of medical cannabis through the voter-approved Prop. 2 in November. However, the Utah Legislature passed an alternative program at the end of 2018.

Marijuana is on the DEA’s Schedule 1 list along with several opioids, hallucinogenics and stimulants, including Heroin, LSD and ecstasy. Schedule 1 drugs have a high potential for abuse according to the DEA. Schedule 2 drugs include cocaine and meth.

Lee said one idea he’s floating would be to change the banking rules as they pertain to the cannabis industry. Currently, any bank that provides services to a legal marijuana business faces possible criminal prosecution for “aiding and abetting” what would be a federal crime. If a bank does choose to work with a legal marijuana business, they must file a suspicious activity report for every single transaction with that business, which means a regulatory nightmare.

“I’ve been talking with people about possibly removing that banking rule allowing banks to handle those transactions electronically as long as the transaction doesn’t violate state law,” he said.

Democrats told Lee that reclassifying cannabis as a Schedule 2 drug would at least allow more research on the substance.

“I feel strongly there needs to be more research. The regulatory burden is too cumbersome,” said Rep. Suzanne Harrison, D-Draper, who is a medical doctor. “Just the requirements on where it is stored is ridiculous.”