Remove Marijuana from Schedule 1 in Minnesota?

Has the time come to remove marijuana from Minnesota’s Schedule 1 of the Minnesota Controlled Substances Act? 


Here is an explanation of why; and how you can help make it happen.

The Minnesota Controlled Substances Act (Minnesota Statutes Chapter 152) is similar to the Federal Controlled Substances Act (21 United States Code Sections 801 et seq). They both create lists, or “schedules” of drugs, numbered one through five.

Arbitrary Legal Definitions in Need of Reform

The legal definition of drugs listed in Schedule 1:

  • a high potential for abuse, or
  • no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, or
  • lacks accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision

Examples of Schedule 1 drugs include the opiates, such as heroin, morphine, etc.

The definition of “Schedule 2” drugs :

  • high potential for abuse, or
  • currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, or
  • currently accepted medical use with severe restrictions, and, abuse of the drug may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence. 

Examples of Schedule 2 drugs include cocaine, methamphetamine, and phenobarbital.

Schedules 3 and 4 is to include drugs less harmful or prone to abuse.

Schedule 5 includes drug the government thinks are:

  • less dangerous or prone to abuse,
  • with currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, or
  • abuse of the drug or other substance may lead to limited physical dependence or psychological dependence.

Marijuana and THC in Minnesota’s Schedule 1

Where has the government seen fit to categorize marijuana and THC within this scheme?  Currently, they still list marijuana as a “Schedule 1” category drug, right in there with heroin.  So, the government views marijuana as more dangerous than methamphetamine, which is only a Schedule 2 drug.

What difference does it make?  Lots. 

And here are two big ways it makes a difference where the government legally categorizes marijuana:

  • harming people and public safety with criminalization, and
  • harming people and public health by creating a legal barrier to legal medical marijuana treatment.

Removing marijuana and THC from all “Schedules,” alone, would have limited impact on criminalization. After all, most controlled substance crimes specifically list marijuana by name, as well as “Schedule 1” drugs.  Therefore removing marijuana from Minnesota’s Schedule 1 alone would not automatically remove “marijuana” from Minnesota’s Controlled Substance Crimes, First through Fifth Degree.

And just moving it from Schedule 1 to Schedule 2 would make little difference, as far as the criminal laws.

But removing marijuana and THC from Minnesota’s Controlled Substances Act Schedules would recognize that medical marijuana is currently an accepted medical treatment of disease in the United States

Lack of rational basis in the law

remove marijuana from Schedule 1 in Minnesota
No accepted medical use? It’s time to remove from Schedule 1

How can Minnesota have a legal medical marijuana program, yet still have marijuana listed as a “Schedule 1 drug?”

The law lacks any rational basis. After all, by definition listing in Schedule 1 means “no currently accepted medical use in treatment.”

But marijuana is a currently accepted medical treatment for many diseases.

Moreover, is Schedule 1 marijuana really more dangerous than Schedule 2’s methamphetamine?

After all, most of the 50 states now have legal medical marijuana programs. And most of the U.S. population live in states where medical marijuana is legal today.  “No currently accepted medical use in treatment?”  Really?  

To the contrary, marijuana is a currently accepted medical treatment, across the United States.

Allowing inertia to continue marijuana in Schedule 1 has harmful implications for public health of the people of Minnesota.  For example, it creates innumerable difficulties for sick people who are just trying to treat their illness, including insurance issues.  That’s unfair to the ill and low-income disabled. Because the law drives them into the underground market for medicine.

We ought to take our laws seriously and change them to reflect reality and truth. 

Minnesota can Deschedule; no need to wait for the feds

We need to amend Minnesota law to remove marijuana from Schedule 1, by completely descheduling. Let’s remove it from all Minnesota Controlled Substances Act schedules.

A bipartisan Bill introduced into the United States Senate would move marijuana from the federal Schedule 1 to Schedule 2.  It’s titled the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States or “CARERS” Act. But Minnesota need not wait for the federal laws to change.

We should get this done in Minnesota at our state legislature, first.

We should urge the Minnesota Senate and Minnesota House to pass a Bill to deschedule marijuana and THC. In 2011, the Minnesota legislature changed the law stripping Minnesota Pharmacy Board’s authority to move drugs out of Schedule 1.  So only the Minnesota legislature can do it now.

What can you do?

Pick up the phone, send a letter, or contact your Minnesota State Senator and House Representative. And ask them to support a Bill to deschedule marijuana or reschedule it to Schedule 2.

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And join Minnesota NORML and other advocates of civil rights reforms. Legalization – we can do it.

Thomas C. Gallagher is a Minneapolis Defense Attorney representing people facing marijuana criminal charges.

And he serves on the Board of Minnesota NORML.